South Africa's Erasmus banned for two games over latest referee tweets

South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus was suspended for two games by World Rugby on Thursday following his criticism of refereeing decisions during the ongoing Autumn Nations Series.

The ban kicks in immediately which means Erasmus is now ruled out of this weekend's Test against Italy in Genoa and next week's match against England at Twickenham.

The former Springbok flanker has only just returned from a stadium ban following a World Rugby suspension for his infamous hour-long video criticising referee Nic Berry's performance in the first Test between the Springboks and the British and Irish Lions last year.

That did not stop Erasmus from publishing several videos on social media that appeared to question decisions made by referee Wayne Barnes during the world champion Springboks' 30-26 loss to France last Saturday.

He had made similar comments on social media following South Africa's defeat by Ireland a week earlier.

- 'Not aimed at the officials' -

Earlier on Thursday, Erasmus said accusations that his videos had led to threats against experienced English referee Barnes were "completely unfounded".

He argued his videos "were not aimed at the officials, but to our SA fans on what we should do better".

World Rugby, however, took a different view after reviewing Erasmus's posts and the man behind South Africa's 2019 World Cup triumph will now miss the Springboks' final two matches of this year.

"World Rugby condemns any public criticism of match official selection, performance or integrity, which undermines their role, the trust-based coach/match officials feedback process and the values of integrity, respect, solidarity and discipline that are at the heart of the sport," the global governing body said in a statement.

"The behaviour of coaching staff and match officials are widely observed by fans, media and participants at every level, and such behaviours affect how the values are applied across the game."

The statement added: "Having considered the matter World Rugby has issued a two-match ban against Rassie Erasmus and accordingly he may not take part in any match-day activity in relation to the two upcoming Test matches that South Africa has against Italy on 19 November, 2022 and England on 26 November, 2022.

"The ban includes engagement with media and social media in relation to match officials."

Following Eramsus' latest posts, Warren Gatland -- the coach of the Lions side that lost 2-1 to the Springboks' last year -- urged South African officials to rein in the outspoken Erasmus.

"You would like to think that someone will pull Erasmus aside," said the 59-year-old New Zealander in a column for the UK Daily Telegraph published Wednesday.

"Whether it's someone from the South African Rugby Union or their CEO or there's a phone call, to tell Rassie: 'I don't think you're doing yourself any favours, or World Rugby any favours by putting these things out on social media'."

The inferred criticism of Barnes, who surpassed Nigel Owens's record by controlling his 101st Test match last weekend, did not go down well with the retired Welsh official.

"To me, we don't need that in the game and I'd have thought he (Erasmus) would have learned his lesson by now," said Owens.