Kolisi says ref didn't respect him as much as Jones

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South Africa captain Siya Kolisi says referee Nic Berry didn't give him as much respect as British and Irish Lions counterpart Alun Wyn Jones in the first test last weekend in Cape Town.

His comment on Friday backed up the initial claim by South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus on Thursday that Berry treated Kolisi differently from Jones.

"I didn't feel respected and I feel I wasn't given a fair opportunity,” Kolisi said at the captain's run a day before the second test at Cape Town Stadium.

The Springboks lost the first test 22-17, and the performance of Berry and his fellow match officials has overshadowed the buildup all week. Erasmus' persistent attacks, including an extraordinary 62-minute video, have drawn reaction from World Rugby and Rugby Australia.

The match officials rotate this week, with Berry running the touchline to assist New Zealand referee Ben O’Keeffe. Mathieu Raynal of France is the other assistant, and South African official Marius Jonker the TMO again.

“I'm looking forward to a new game and a new referee,” Kolisi said. "I think Ben will give a fair opportunity for both captains and that's all we're asking.”

Kolisi was further pressed by a journalist as to how he felt disrespected but replied that he “didn't want to get into it.”

Springboks assistant coach Mzwandile Stick, sitting beside Kolisi, defended the captain by insisting the whole discussion around the officials' performance should have been nipped in the bud by World Rugby before the series when the Lions last week were reportedly angered by Jonker's appointment as the television match official.

The South African was a late replacement for New Zealand's Brendon Pickerill, who could not travel because of the pandemic.

Stick suggested that calling out Erasmus for his social media analysis of the first test defeat was a double standard, as Lions coach Warren Gatland reportedly fumed at the lack of a neutral alternative to Pickering.

“World Rugby's integrity was challenged by another human being when Marius Jonker was appointed as the TMO,” Stick said. "That appointment was publicly challenged by the coach of the other team and until today, I haven't heard any statement about him apologising for that.

"If Rassie gets into trouble for what he said on social media, the gentleman who challenged the integrity of the game when he challenged the appointment of the TMO destroyed the dignity of the series and challenged World Rugby's integrity.”

The exchanges between the sides have only added spice to a series that the Lions could clinch on Saturday.

Earlier, Lions assistant coach Robin McBryde dismissed the Erasmus complaints as nothing more than a "sideshow."

McBryde said that a meeting with the match officials on Thursday went well.

"Ben O’Keeffe said himself, ‘Look, we’re aware there’s a lot of stuff out there on social media, but that’s not going to affect anything,’” McBryde said.

"So that's just a sideshow to be honest. We had an honest discussion with the referees and everyone realizes they're in a tough place. They've got a tough job to do, but we were really happy with Nic Berry last Saturday. I don't think it will be any different this week either.”

World Rugby said on Thursday it was asking SA Rugby about Erasmus. Meanwhile, Rugby Australia defended its referee Berry by calling Erasmus’ comments "unacceptable and against the spirit and values of the game.”

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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