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Nienaber lifts lid on Rassie's sideline light show

By Ian Cameron
Rassie Erasmus and Felix Jones flashing lights.

Retired waterboy and full-time Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus was yet again part of an intriguing sideline subplot as South Africa successfully navigated their way past Scotland in Marseille in their opening Rugby World Cup match in Pool B.


The Boks ran out comfortable 18-3 winners over the 5th-ranked Scots, who barely fired a shot in soaring temperatures along the south coast of France. However, fans were left bemused at Erasmus’ latest stunt, which involved a novel light show.

Erasmus and assistant Felix Jones were filmed using a ‘traffic light’ system to communicate to the bench team at several moments during the game at the Stade Velodrome. The pair could be seen holding up an LED torch of some description, which many viewers presumed they were using to communicate to their support staff, who were managing the replacements on the sideline.

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It wasn’t entirely clear what the explicit use of the system was and journalists quizzed head coach Jacques Nienaber about the use of the system in the post-match press conference.

“In terms of the lights, it started when we played France in Marseille,” said Nienaber. “I don’t know if you’ve been pitch-side or close, with this dome the sound is phenomenal so you can’t hear people.

“Sometimes it’s difficult for us to talk to our support staff. I am sure a lot of teams will have systems, whether it is green or red, what is the extent of the injury, so they can communicate.”

He was then asked if the Springboks had requested permission from World Rugby to use the system.

“You can use hand signals for communication. I don’t think you need any permission from World Rugby. I was at Munster and the calls were red if it’s a serious injury and you must consider a substitution, amber is ‘let’s give this guy five or 10 minutes to see if he’s okay’ and green ‘it’s okay’.”


Seventeen years ago Erasmus earned the nickname ‘DJ Rassie’ for employing similar light signals to communicate with his players on the field during the 2006 Currie Cup with the Cheetahs.

His innovative strategy involved installing coloured lamps on the roof of the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, replacing his earlier use of coloured cards.

Erasmus also went to great lengths to communicate with his players during the British & Irish Lions tour, moonlighting as a waterboy so he could ferry information to his players during the game.




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