Jaco Peyper weighs in on the ‘abusive’ Springboks ‘Bomb Squad’ tactics

Jared Wright
Jaco Peyper and Springboks replacements against Ireland.

Jaco Peyper has weighed in on the Springboks' replacement tactics.

Former international referee Jaco Peyper has laughed off the notion that the Springboks’ ‘Bomb Squad’ tactics are a threat to player welfare.

Much of South Africa’s success since 2019 has come from the make up of their bench with the replacements famously dubbed the ‘Bomb Squad’ during that year’s World Cup in Japan.

Traditionally, coaches would select five forwards and three backs among their replacements, but Rassie Erasmus bucked the trend in 2019, backing six forwards before the Bok coaching staff upped the ante before and during the 2023 World Cup, selecting a 7-1 split in favour of the forwards.

Springboks’ Bomb Squad tactic

Their success with the tactic has led to many teams following suit with France regularly selecting six forwards on the bench while many Six Nations teams did the same earlier this year.

While the Springboks didn’t opt for a 7-1 split for the first Test against Ireland, they did back the 6-2 and once again, it proved pivotal with the replacement forwards clinching a penalty try from a scrum to push their lead beyond seven points.

Former Scotland head coach Matt Williams has been extremely vocal on the topic, repeatedly stating that the Springboks are ‘abusing’ a safety law in the game by using the tactic and most recently stated that it “discriminates against backline players”.

After his latest rant about the replacements, Peyper was asked for his reaction to the pundit’s opinion and if he thought it was dangerous for the players.

“I think the law is pretty clear you can do it,” said Peyper after an initial chuckle to the question at a press conference.

“I don’t think that makes it dangerous; it makes it dangerous when players don’t level-change or drop their height into contact; it makes it dangerous when players take a risk in the air and don’t respect the other player in the air.”

Springboks accused of ‘abusing rugby traditions’ as Rassie Erasmus ‘discriminates against backs

Fresher players decreases injury risk

Peyper, who is SA Rugby’s national laws advisor, also pointed to the research done by Dr Ross Tucker, which suggests that the risk of injury actually decreases when fresher players are brought onto the pitch and highlighted that South Africa is not the only team that makes use of the 6/2 split.

“I don’t think the Bomb Squad or a 6/2 split makes it dangerous. Ireland played with a 6/2 split three times in the Six Nations; nobody talked about them,” he added.

“I think it’s because it was effective. The safety of the game is determined by the shape of the game. Laws are made to protect players.

“A fresh pair of legs doesn’t make the game dangerous. I’ve actually seen a paper written by Dr Ross Tucker that says the risk of injury goes down when fresher players enter the pitch.”

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