‘Against the spirit of the game’ – Pundit doubles down on Springboks’ 7-1 bench take

Jared Wright
Springboks flanker Kwagga Smith celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during the international match at Twickenham Stadium against the All Blacks

Williams has stuck to his guns on the -Springboks' 7-1 split on the bench.

Ex-Scotland head coach Matt Williams has doubled down on his hot take that the Springboks should not be allowed to field a 7-1 split on the bench.

Williams has been highly critical of the Springboks’ move to include seven forwards on the bench against the All Blacks and believes that World Rugby need to intervene.

The Springboks had initially named six forwards and two backs amongst their replacements, but a late call saw Willie Le Roux withdraw from the game and be replaced in the matchday 23 by back-rower Kwagga Smith.

South Africa went on to record a record 35-7 victory at Twickenham.

Safety issue

On Monday evening, he appeared on OTB’s Rugby podcast and said, “The South Africans are just abusing the bench at the moment.”

He has since doubled down on his views when appearing on a podcast for Virgin Media.

“Just so everyone knows, the bench was put in place because, in the old days, you had 15, and if you got injured, bad luck,” he said.

“Then they put a bench in, but what teams ended up doing was they might play, say Alan (Quinlan), as a back row and a prop got hurt.

“They were then putting back rowers in the front row, and guys were getting hurt.

“So this whole bench issue was a safety issue; it’s the same with the back three, same with scrum-halves getting tackled at the breakdown and getting hurt; this was a safety issue to have a bench.”

Blight on the game

Williams then backed up his claim that the Springboks were taking advantage of the bench and said it was a blight on the game.


“What South Africa have done is abuse player safety issue and put a whole pack on the bench, and it’s against the spirit of the game, and it’s against those safety rules.

“World Rugby should have seen this coming because for years, teams, not just South Africa, France as well have been picking a six, two bench (in favour of the forwards), and it should never have been allowed to get to this.

“All world rugby had to say, was three of your bench have to be recognised backs; that’s all they had to do, and this problem would not be there.”

“What South Africa did, the other day, is totally against the spirit of the game and certainly totally against player safety.

“I am just totally against this; World Rugby should act in the next week and say during the World Cup you need three recognised backs on your bench, problem over.

“But the fact is that they, South Africa, are not breaking any rules, but it is a blight on the game that needs to be stopped right now.”

The outside backs should have bought tickets

He added that while the tactic worked at Twickenham on Friday evening, it wouldn’t always and that ‘karma’ would catch up with the Springboks.

“The outside backs should have bought tickets in the stand because they were they were just spectators,” Williams claimed.

“South Africa played the game between their forwards and their scrum-half.

“They are opening themselves up to karma, and believe me, there is karma in rugby.

If you only got on back on your bench and you get two injuries or a sin bin or a sending-off, you’re in serious trouble. So the South Africans are rolling the dice.”

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