(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 16, 2019 South Africa's headcoach Rassie Erasmus attends a training session at the Arcs Urayasu Park in Urayasu. - Rassie Erasmus confirmed on October 31, 2019, that he would step down from his position as South Africa's head coach after the World Cup final against England on November 2, 2019, in Yokohama (suburbs of Tokyo) to focus fully in his role as Director of Rugby. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

In a statement, it called officials the “backbone” of the sport.

“Without them, there is no game,” it stated.

“World Rugby berates any public criticism of their selection, performance or integrity which looks down on their role, the well-established and trust-based coach-officials feedback process, and more particularly, the values that are at the heart of the sport.”

Erasmus spoke for 62 minutes, direct to camera, and in particular, heightened the performance of Australian referee Nic Berry in the match the tourists won 22-17.

He felt South Africa players – including captain Siya Kolisi – were not held in the same respect as the Lions and their skipper Alun Wyn Jones.

In the video posted on Vimeo, Erasmus mentioned: “Let the Springboks and the Lions have an equal chance on the field when it comes to laws, respect, the way players are treated, what is said in the coaches’ pre-match meeting with the referees, how they give feedback post-match and how things are expressed in the media.

“It’s comical the respect the [officials] expressed towards the South African players compared to the Lions players.”

The World Rugby statement said it had reminded both sides of their obligation to uphold the ethics of the sport.

“It is a privilege for both teams and their management to set a positive example and focus on the spectacle and a wonderful example of rugby and its values at their best,” it added.

South Africa drew level in the series with an emphatic 27-9 win in the second Test in Cape Town last weekend.

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