Rassie Erasmus hits back at pundit after claims Springboks are ‘abusing’ rugby’s traditions

Colin Newboult
Head coach Rassie Erasmus and the under fire Springboks Bomb Squad.

Head coach Rassie Erasmus and the under fire Springboks Bomb Squad.

Rassie Erasmus has defended the bench laws and the Springboks’ use of them after they came under fire from a former international head coach.

Outspoken pundit Matt Williams has been a critic of how South Africa have been able to use their replacements since they fielded a 7-1 split against the All Blacks at Twickenham last year.

And following Saturday’s clash against Ireland, where the Boks brought six forward replacements on at the same time in the 27-20 victory, Williams once again aired his frustration.

The controversial comments

“It discriminates against backs; our game is for all shapes and sizes, so in that game, you had 14 forwards,” the pundit told Virgin Media Sport.

“It’s abusing our ethos, it’s abusing our traditions, and it’s abusing our safety rules and it has to change.”

Williams clarified that the Boks were only following the laws laid out by World Rugby but called on the governing body to make changes, adding: “That is not any criticism of South Africa, it’s not a criticism of Rassie, it’s a criticism of World Rugby that allows that to happen. That is not what our game is designed for.”

Erasmus has since responded to Williams after naming his squad for the final Test of the Ireland series in Durban.

The Springboks are currently 1-0 up after an impressive display at Loftus Versfeld and they have named an unchanged squad which includes a 6-2 split on the bench.

“To be honest with you, I’ve learned that if you know the laws and the protocols and you don’t go outside the protocols… I’ve been slapped over my wrist for not doing that,” South Africa’s head coach said.

“Then learning and adapting, I really don’t see how that would be (dangerous).

“Our reality is, listen man, we could send them on one by one, but all six go at the same time… I don’t know if that’s dangerous? I mean, Ireland definitely also play with 6/2.”

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

Ireland’s thoughts

Erasmus also reckons that Ireland, who themselves had a 6-2 bench split in the Six Nations, are unfussed by the Boks’ continued use of the tactic.

“I don’t think the Irish team feel that way, I don’t think Andy Farrell feels that way. It’s one individual who said that,” he said.

“I’m not even sure the Irish players feel about it, they’re too proud. They handled it well and after that they still scored two great tries to make it a really tense game.

“One injury was in the first-half on (Dan) Sheehan, before the bomb-squad comes on. So, ja, some things make sense when you see it and others don’t.”

The Springboks boss admits they are aware of comments that are made, especially on social media and from the South African fans, and hopes that he answers those queries and concerns honestly.

“We do hear things, we see things. I’m on social media and I read things, there’s some things you really take to heart and try to understand,” Erasmus added.

“I try to stay in touch with South Africa and what our people feel, how our people react and try to be honest to the media without giving too much away.”

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