British and Irish Lions prop Mako Vunipola has rejected claims from South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus of a 'reckless' play following the opening Test at Cape Town Stadium last weekend.
The 30-year-old tried to help Cheslin Kolbe off the ground after the Springboks winger was tackled by Ali Price but it did not go well with Erasmus, who went on to social media to condemn Vunipola's act. He also felt the home side should have been awarded a penalty for the tackle made by Price.
“Cheslin is obviously played in the air and clearly not direct into touch!! More importantly for youngsters watching this clip!!!!
“Please never move or touch an injured player on the ground, its reckless and dangerous!”
Cheslin is obviously played in the air and clearly not direct into touch!!More importantly for youngsters watching this clip!!!! Please never move or touch an injured player on the ground, its reckless and dangerous! Leave this to the ?? ????@WorldRugby @Springboks @lionsofficial pic.twitter.com/lEcp5L4PBf— Rassie Erasmus (@RassieRugby) July 26, 2021
Nevertheless, Vunipola responded that Kolbe did not look in an injured state and the act was a 'normal' response to the incident.
“I just remember trying to get the ball,” he told.
“I saw he had gone down and I guess it was just one of those things where it was the heat of the moment. You just react how you would normally.
“But he seemed to be alright? He played on the game, it wasn’t that reckless, was it?”
This was not the first time, Vunipola was targetted on a Lions tour as in the 2013 series against Australia, World Cup winning former Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer accused him of illegal scrum tactics.
"The same happened in 2013 when someone - Bob Dwyer I think it was - said something about my scrummaging," he said. "Maybe this is the first time a coach has said something like that on social media.
"I remember trying to get the ball in but I saw that he'd gone down. I guess if he was really hurt then it was a bit reckless, but I felt like the collision wasn't that bad.
"I saw that people were putting it up [on social media] and mentioning it. We were behind at the time and wanted to get some tempo in the game, so I wanted to get the ball off him.
'If I did hurt him, I do apologise - but in the heat of the moment, you just react as you would naturally."
The second Test will be played in Cape Town on 31st July.