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World Rugby ends Rassie Erasmus’ ‘water boy’ career with new rule

17 May 2022 - 15:49 By SITHEMBISO DINDI
SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus will no longer be able to act as a 'water boy'.
SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus will no longer be able to act as a 'water boy'.

World Rugby has implemented a new trial rule that will prohibits SA Rugby's director of rugby Rassie Erasmus from being a Springbok “water boy” in the future.

Erasmus caused a furore when he ran out as a “water boy” during the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour of SA where he was criticised for coaching the Boks on the field.

In a media statement released by World Rugby on Tuesday, the organisation said its council has approved a global trial limiting the opportunity for non-playing personnel to enter the field of play during a match.

The international mother body further confirmed the rule will be operational for all competitions and stand-alone matches starting after July 1, and said the trial aims to improve the flow of matches by reducing unnecessary stoppages without compromising welfare.

The trial follows an extensive review by the international federation of the current elite rugby environment, including research into player hydration needs, and increasing disruption to play caused by multiple water carriers entering the field of play every time there is a stoppage.

“The new trial for non-medical personnel sets out a revised protocol for when medics and water carriers can access the field of play, limiting the ability to interact with the match officials, and providing a sanctioning framework for any action that either interferes with play or is against the values of the sport,” World Rugby said.

“The aim of the trial is to improve the flow of the game, reduce the opportunity for potential interference, enhance the spectacle for fans and support match management by match officials.

“The trials have been devised in partnership with unions and key stakeholders, in particular International Rugby Players who are supporting the changes.

“For all competitions, including Rugby World Cup 2021 playing in 2022, Rugby World Cup 2023 or stand-alone matches that begin after July 1 2022 the following adjustments to law 6 will apply.”

While World Rugby didn’t mention Erasmus by name, the recent development has been viewed as a step taken against his actions as it states “water carriers cannot be a director of rugby or head coach”.

The adjustments to law 6 published on the World Rugby website are:


  • Can only provide water to players who they are treating.
  • Cannot field or touch a ball when it is live in play (sanction: penalty kick).

Additional personnel

  • Teams are permitted up to two dedicated water carriers.
  • Water carriers cannot be a director of rugby or head coach.
  • In elite level rugby, water carriers will only be able to enter the field of play twice per half at points agreed with the match officials. This can only be during a stoppage in play or after a try has been scored.
  • A person bringing on a kicking tee may carry one bottle for the kicker’s use only.
  • The water/tee carriers must remain in the technical zone at all times before entering the field of play as permitted. Any attempt to field or touch the ball while it is live in play, including the technical zone, will be sanctioned with a penalty kick.
  • No-one should approach, address or aim comments at the match officials, save for medics in respect of treatment of a player. Should this happen, the sanction will be a penalty kick.

Players on the field

  • May access water behind the dead ball line or from within their technical zone at any time.


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