'It looks weird, but...': Springboks explain odd bomb squad rejig
Jacques Nienaber has explained the logic behind the weird-looking Springboks bomb squad bench for Sunday’s Rugby Championship match versus the Wallabies. Going with a bench split of six forwards and two backs is nothing unusual for the South Africans as it was a successful tactic that started getting regularly used at the 2019 World Cup and was used again recently to great effect.
However, what is strikingly unusual about their bomb squad selection heading into the game next weekend against Australia on the Gold Coast is the decision by Nienaber to pick three loose forwards on the Springboks bench and have no reserve second row.
Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith and Jasper Wiese will respectively wear the No19, 20 and 21 Springboks shirts at the weekend, with the three other jerseys allocated to reserve forwards taken up by props Ox Nche and Vincent Koch and hooker Malcolm Marx.
That leaves them with no specialist second row to call on but Nienaber insisted this bomb squad selection isn’t a gamble as the Springboks have Franco Mostert, a third second row, starting at No7 in an XV back row alongside skipper Siya Kolisi and the fit-again Duane Vermeulen.
“I know it looks weird having three loose forwards on the bench but you must remember that one of our locks is playing loose forward for us in the starting line-up in terms of Franco. It looks weird. Why would you have three loose forwards on the bench? But we are starting three locks if you put it like that,” explained Nienaber.
Duane Vermeulen is among the changes to the starting team to face the Wallabies, but check out the Springboks' latest bomb squad variation… https://t.co/Mll9ctu5WN
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 8, 2021
Physicality has become a trademark in the Springboks’ preference to have six forwards on their bench when most opposition elect to go with just five back-up forwards. However, unlike the bruising nature of their recent clashes versus the Lions and Argentina, the South Africans accept their so-called bomb squad is facing a different type of task versus the Wallabies.
“If you look at how Australia play all the Test matches, they play with pace and tempo and massive continuity and stuff like that and an awesome skill set in terms of having the capability to stretch you from touchline to touchline. That was the reason,” Nienaber added about the thinking behind his bench make-up.
Switching to the inclusion in the starting line-up of Vermeulen for his first Test appearance since the November 2019 World Cup final, Nienaber is optimistic about how the veteran No8 will fare on his comeback from the ankle operation that denied him the chance of playing in recent months. “He is on track in terms of where we thought he would be in his return to rugby. Like anybody, it will take some time to get used to the pace.
“It takes a couple of matches to get used to the pace of international rugby again but in saying that Duane has been part of the Springboks for over 50 Tests. He is an experienced player, he has been there before, he almost knows the shortcuts to things on the field so happy, we are exactly where we thought he would be now and I can’t wait for him to get back on the field now. How many minutes? It will depend on how the game unfolds on the day.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 5, 2021
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