Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global

Two Springbok packs can't match the tempo of Ireland's one

By Ben Smith
James Ryan of Ireland, Jonathan Sexton of Ireland, Joe McCarthy of Ireland, Caelan Doris of Ireland having a drinking break during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Ireland and Romania at Stade de Bordeaux on September 9, 2023 in Bordeaux, France. (Photo by Hans van der Valk/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

The mythology of the Springboks bench grew more than an arm and a leg following the destruction of the All Blacks at Twickenham.


Such was made about the power-packed forward replacements that many have forgotten to look at the team sheets.

The 7-man All Black pack was full of young talent in the second half with Tamaiti Williams and Fletcher Newell barely putting together 10 caps between them. Newell, coming back from a six month foot injury, had been called upon in the 13th minute.

Video Spacer

Video Spacer

Josh Lord and Tupou Vaa’i anchored the second row, just 22-years-old and 23-years-old respectively.

This was boys against men in relative terms and the boys had one less to play with, calling on second five-eighth Jordie Barrett to pack down at scrum time.

But of course the context doesn’t matter and all of a sudden the 7-1 split is now the greatest thing in rugby and Ireland should be quivering at the thought of it because they beat up the All Blacks’ kids.

Unless Ireland get an early red card up front and have a bench full of developing players, then they will be just fine.


The two pack strategy is going to be less effective this time around, purely due to the losses South Africa have suffered.

Losing Malcolm Marx, the world’s best hooker and one of the strongest forces over the ball in the game, massively weakens the impact of this ploy.

Whether in the starting side or coming off the bench, Marx is a game-changer whose impact cannot be replaced.

Rugby World Cup
South Africa
8 - 13
All Stats and Data

More baffling is that they have replaced him with a loose forward in Deon Fourie.

That Fourie has played 15 games as a rake out of 127 club games does not make him a Test quality hooker. This bit part No 2 last played a game there in 2017 and most of his playing experience at the position was 10 years ago.


Even hookers struggle to play hooker at Test level, such are the small margins for error. The selection of a career loosie smells of over-confidence that has the potential to backfire spectacularly.

It’s one thing to train at hooker it is another thing entirely to play hooker against the world’s number one team in the Test arena.

Duane Vermeulen has been in resurgent form this year, proving to be a handful off the bench against the All Blacks in Auckland earlier this season.

Ireland will be happy to see Jasper Wiese in his place instead, a wildcard No 8 who has habitually cost the Boks with discipline issues. Kwagga Smith is a powerful ball carrier but Ireland will feel they can handle his 1.80 metre frame.

Both Wiese and Smith were below par against the All Blacks at Mt Smart, leading to questions about the strength of the Springboks backrow in the aftermath.

When it boils down to it, this bench is not on the same level as the starting pack and the losses of Marx and Vermeulen are huge.

Although the bench brings fresh legs, injecting new players is a disruption that can ruin momentum. If Fourie can’t hit the timing on his throws, it doesn’t matter how powerful the maul is.

Often when new front rowers come on teams find their fortunes change at scrum time. So many teams can lose set-piece ascendency as fresh players get themselves into the game.

And of course, all it takes is one early injury in the backline outside of scrumhalf to completely derail this bench.

It looks like genius when it works but the day it is exposed, the foolishness will be apparent. That day will come sooner or later.


Ireland’s forwards will not be bothered in the slightest and all the talk about how formidable the Springboks’ two packs are will only put more fire in the belly.

The Irish pack play at a speed and tempo that the Springboks can’t match at full speed.

Tadhg Beirne, Caelan Doris, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, and Josh van der Flier clear more bodies than a morgue.

The famed Irish missile cleanouts will be pummelling the backs of white jerseys with a little extra oomph and Jamison-Park will be clearing ball fast.

Tempo will decide this game and if Ireland reach theirs, the Boks’ massive bench will turn into a massive liability.

If South Africa can’t slow the ball down their two packs are going to be fodder for the green machine.


Join free



Trending on RugbyPass


Rugby 175 days ago

But they beat the Pacific Lions twice with 7-1.

Current 2023 RWC squad.
1.      Samisoni Frank Simpson Taukei'aho  - Tongatapu, Tonga
2.      Nepo Eti Laulala - Moto'otua, Samoa
3.      Tyrel Shae Lomax - Canberra, Australia
4.      Aniseto Ofa He Moori Tuʻungafasi - Nukuʻalofa, Tonga
5.      Leicester Ofa Ki Wales Twickenham Fainga'anuku - Nukuʻalofa, Tonga
6.      Emoni Narawa - Suva, Fiji
7.      Finlay Turner Christie - Peebles, Scotland
8.      Shannon Michael Frizell - Folaha, Tonga
9.      Samisoni Frank Simpson Taukei'aho  - Tongatapu, Tonga
More recent others
10.   Pita Gus Nacagilevu Sowakula - Lautoka, Fiji
11.   Samipeni Finau -Tonga
12.   Roger Tuivasa-Sheck - Apia, Samoa
13.   Folau Fakatava  - Nukuʻalofa, Tonga
14.   Sevuloni Lasei Reece - Nadi, Fiji
15.   Vaea Tangitau Lapota Fifita - Vavaʻu, Tonga
Others Professional Era
16.   Apia, Samoa       Anesi, Sosene Raymond
17.   Apia, Samoa       Brown, Olo Max
18.   Apia, Samoa       Clarke, Eroni
19.   Apia, Samoa       Collins, Jerry
20.   Apia, Samoa       Ieremia, Alama
21.   Apia, Samoa       Schuster, Nesetorio Jonny
22.   Apia, Samoa       Schwalger, John Evan
23.   Falesiu, Samoa   Tuigamala, Va'aiga Lealuga
24.   Moto'otua, Samoa           Laulala, Casey Daniel Eti
25.   Moto'otua, Samoa           So'oialo, Rodney
26.   Moto'otua, Samoa           Toeava, Isaia
27.   Pago Pago, American Samoa        Solomon, Frank
28.   Salelesi, Samoa  Muliaina, Junior Malili
29.   Savai'i, Samoa    Masoe, Matemini Christopher
30.   Tutuila, American Samoa               Kaino, Jerome
31.   Ha'apai, Tonga   Fekitoa, Malakai Fonokalafi
32.   Ha'apai, Tonga   Lauaki, Sione Tuitupu
33.   Ha'apai, Tonga   Taumoepeau, Saimone
34.   Longoteme, Tonga          Maka, Isitolo
35.   Nuku'alofa, Tonga           Alatini, Pita Faiva-ki-moana
36.   Nuku'alofa, Tonga           Riechelmann, Charles Calvin
37.   Nuku'alofa, Tonga           Vanisi, Osaiasi Kupu
38.   Tonga, Tonga     Batty, Walter
39.   Tonga, Tonga     Halai, Frank
40.   Lautoka, Fiji        Fraser, Bernard Gabriel
41.   Lautoka, Fiji        Jennings, Arthur Grahn
42.   Levuka, Fiji          Solomon, David
43.   Nadi, Fiji              Rokocoko, Josevata Taliga
44.   Nausori Highlands, Fiji     Matson, John Tabaiwalu Fakavale
45.   Nausori Highlands, Fiji     Vidiri, Joeli
46.   Suva, Fiji              Sivivatu, Sitiveni Waica
47.   Suva, Fiji              Williams, Ronald Oscar

Utiku Old Boy 267 days ago

Many of the Bok supporters that commented on this article with vitriol and hate towards B Smith should be eating crow. As an opinion, it wasn't far off the game result - but even if the Boks had won, the offense and hatred was pitiful. Live in the real world where the right to an opinion is not a criminal or professional offense and we can agree to differ.

Brian 268 days ago

with all of the anti Ben Smith brigade giving him a hard time. He wasn't too far off the mark in this article after all . This 7-1 split also was clearly not the answer. Some of the answer to SA today was sitting in the stands (Pollard) while kick after kick missed the target. Is this the end of the 7-1 split experiment ? It seems to be found out already . Great game by the way ....2 great teams ...neither playing their best but there is a chance we can meet again in the coming weeks

Jon 268 days ago

The bomb squad destroyed them in their first scrum. Scoring 5 points as a result.

I think Ireland probably had it after that though?

Peter 268 days ago

Hardly a subjective and balanced article, and full of emotive name-calling. Knowledgeable commentators recognise the pros and cons of both teams and their strategies.

Enough of this rubbish, from now one I check who the author is before reading anything on RugbyPass.

To Irish supporters, may your team be almost as good as ours this evening! Hopefully the game lives up to the hype, going to be a cracker.

stephan 269 days ago

Written like a troll not a rugby Pundit. The tone of this article stinks or bias. Write SA front row off at your own peril. Ben is thinking exactly what Rassie wants you to think he is a Genius. “SA going to try bully the forwards” no he is playing a fast paced game and has 3 fetchers in the bench to compete at breakdowns. He Bongi is the one forward that will play close toy he full game. Rassie has fetchers that can fill in at hooker they are simply backup. Let’s talk after the game Ben !

Derek 269 days ago

As soon as I saw the name ben smith I knew. 3 or 4 lines and it was his same old crap. I read no further. Tosser

Tiaan 269 days ago

Ireland is no1 for a reason but the Boks are also world champions for a reason and breathing down Ireland's neck, Boks lost to Ireland last year due to poor kicking, not because our so called slow pack couldnt hang with them or their great speed. Boks can match Ireland on every front, the advantage they have is a areliable kicker, if Mannie Fires today we have every chance to win just like Ireland has.

Moses 269 days ago

Ireland will win this one.

Liam 269 days ago

Great alternative take on how the game could go. I have SA as slight favourites, but, if Ireland can click and find their A-game, we could win with clear water.

Load More Comments

Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

FEATURE After sacking Munster’s fortress, can Glasgow tame Bulls at Loftus? After sacking Munster’s fortress, can Glasgow tame Bulls at Loftus?