Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber explain ‘method’ to Springboks’ World Cup selection ‘madness’

Colin Newboult
South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber.

South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and ex-Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber.

Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus have revealed why the Springboks decided to take four scrum-halves to the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

It was one of the standout calls when the 33-man squad was announced in August ahead of the global tournament in France.

South Africa selected Faf de Klerk, Cobus Reinach, Grant Williams and Jaden Hendrikse for the World Cup in a move which surprised many.

Supporters were confused by the decision as it meant they lacked cover in other areas, especially hooker and fly-half, but the coaches explained their reasoning in the new documentary, Chasing the Sun 2.


The Boks coaches like versatility in their players, which is what the majority of that quartet offered, according to Nienaber.

“We knew that a guy like Grant Williams actually played wing at school, we knew Cobus could stand up at wing, we knew Faf played fly-half and played fly-half in big games,” the current Leinster senior coach said in a Betway clip from the documentary.

“It wasn’t something that was an experiment. For us, with the four scrum-halves, there was always method in the madness.”

South Africa did end up naming all four scrum-halves in one matchday squad when they faced Romania in their second game in Pool B.

Reinach started at number nine with the lighting quick Williams on the wing, while Hendrikse and De Klerk were among the replacements.

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The starting duo touched down five times between them with Reinach scoring a hat-trick and Williams going over twice.

Hendrikse and De Klerk both came on in the second period and combined at half-back – the latter taking over kicking responsibilities, converting two tries.

And Felix Jones, who became England’s assistant coach after the World Cup, echoed Nienaber’s sentiments about needing to have players who could fit into different roles.

“We felt that having players playing multiple positions allows us to have cover, so if one guy goes down, another guy can just slot in,” Jones said.

“Yes, they would have their primary position which they needed to be able to be world-class at, but we also needed them to be able to operate in another capacity should the situation demand it.”

Box-kicking use

Erasmus also stated that it benefited the Springboks in training, with the four scrum-halves allowing them to be “much more productive” during their sessions.

“Suddenly now, you have 33 players, so if you have two extra nines then you can practice box-kicks and your sessions become so much more productive because you can have four stations where there’s a nine available,” he said.

South Africa’s coaches have been renowned for thinking outside the box and Nienaber insists that there should be no prescribed way in putting together an international squad.

“The squad selection, you want your best 33 players to be there. It doesn’t necessarily have to always be three fly-halves or two fly-halves, or three scrum-halves or two scrum-halves. Those were the best guys,” he added.

READ MORE: Jacques Nienaber to impart Springboks ‘secrets’ at Leinster ahead of massive Champions Cup quarter-final