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'I don't even know if it is smart by Erasmus': Irish scribe questions Springboks' gamble

By Kim Ekin
Mbongeni Mbonambi of South Africa smiles on the bench during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Final between England and South Africa at International Stadium Yokohama on November 02, 2019 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Australian coach turned Irish rugby pundit Matt Williams caused a stir with his take on the Springboks 7-1 bench split, calling on World Rugby to ban the tactic.


He believed that the use of the bench went against the original intention of it, which was to provide cover for injured players with trained positional reserves.

Irish scribe, Rúaidhrí O’Connor of the Irish Independent, took another side to the debate on the same OTB Monday Night Rugby show.

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O’Connor theorised the experiment was done to “spook the world” ahead of the Rugby World Cup and he believed there was a good possibility they will use the 7-1 split against Ireland should they lock up a quarter-final berth with a win over Scotland.

“They’ve got a chance to absolutely obliterate the world number one side, in their own mind,” O’Connor told the OTB Monday Night Rugby podcast.

“It could completely backfire, in terms of the injuries. We saw a 6-2 split backfire for Toulouse during the European Cup only a couple of months ago.

“Ireland refuse to do it because they are too concerned about what happen if they had backline injuries.


“But South Africa, I believe they’ve done this, a) to spook the world and b) to see if it would work. It worked.

“Now they were already up by 21-0 at the time they put them all on.”

The Springboks were in the perfect position when the reserve pack was sent in to continue the misery put on the All Blacks, who were down Scott Barrett after a red card late in the first half.

However, O’Connor warned South Africa that the strategy could one day end up backfiring and leave the coaches with egg on their faces so to speak.

“I don’t even know if it is smart by Erasmus, the day it backfires is the day he’ll regret doing it. As long as he’s getting away with it,” he said.


“He’s got a lot of backline coverage with a scrumhalf on the bench and players who can move positions, but you lose two, does Kwagga Smith go into centre?

“He’s a dynamic player but you’re losing something there.”

South Africa open their campaign with a pool game against Scotland on Sunday the 10th of September.


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