Eddie Jones insists rugby union has a duty to look after referees as South Africa boss Rassie Erasmus is forced to miss another clash with England at Twickenham for disciplinary reasons.
For the second successive year, Erasmus is prohibited from entering the stadium due to a two-game matchday ban imposed for publishing a series of sarcastic tweets criticising officials during the Autumn Nations Series.
Wayne Barnes, who oversaw South Africa’s defeat by France on November 12, received abuse on social media as a result of Erasmus’ comments.
While stopping short of condemning Erasmus’ conduct, Jones states that officials must be treated with respect.
“I’m not perfect. I’ve said things that probably haven’t been right but the longer I’ve coached the more I accept we’ve got to look after the referees,” the Australian said.
“I remember back in 2007 I got fined $10,000 for criticising a referee. In Queensland that’s a lot of money and I had to pay it myself because the union didn’t pay it for me.
“Since then I have accepted the fact we shouldn’t speak about referees so I’ve got a blanket rule that I don’t speak about referees – I try not to – and I don’t speak about coaches who speak about referees.
“To me it’s simple. There’s the game, play the game, the referee’s in charge, if he makes mistakes let’s accept it, because that’s our game.
“If we want to have a contest game referees are going to make mistakes. If we don’t want a contest let’s play basketball. Let’s not have any contest and call it basketball. Or we play Aussie Rules or Football.”
Jones questions whether Erasmus’ repeated criticism of referees is designed to create a siege mentality as South Africa close in on the defence of the World Cup they won by toppling England in 2019.
“Whenever you’ve won something, you need to find the motivation to do it again and maybe this is a clever way to find motivation,” Jones said.
Jones has revamped his starting XV for the final assignment of the autumn, making four changes including two to the front row where Mako Vunipola and Jamie George start in place of Ellis Genge and Luke Cowan-Dickie.
Sam Simmonds is demoted to the bench to make room for Alex Coles at blindside flanker with Jones viewing three line-out jumpers as essential against South Africa, who will target England with a high-volume kicking game.
Completing the adjustments is Tommy Freeman winning his third cap on the right wing at the expense of Jack Nowell in what will be his first appearance since impressing on the July tour to Australia.
“It’s a completely different game. South Africa keep coming through here (bangs hands together), whereas with New Zealand they come here and they go wide quickly,” Jones said.
“We’ve got to meet the challenge of them coming through the front door. It’s a different game and we’ve selected a different side to neutralise their strengths and play to our strengths.
“Our belief in the way we want to play is going to be tested again because these guys are going to come out the blocks and through the front door.
“We’re going to have to fight and fight and fight and when we get a chance to break them we’re going to have to go for it.”