Springboks hint at controversial bench selection for Ireland Rugby World Cup game

Colin Newboult

Springboks replacements celebrate against New Zealand in Rugby World Cup warm-up.

The Springboks are considering going with a 7-1 bench split for their massive Rugby World Cup encounter against Ireland this weekend.

That is the word from director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, who is once again thinking about innovating as they seek to combat the might of Ireland.

South Africa first used that tactic in a World Cup warm-up match against the All Blacks when full-back Willie le Roux pulled out late on and was replaced by back-row Kwagga Smith in the squad.

It proved to be very effective as they dominated New Zealand up front for the whole 80 minutes and went away with a 35-7 triumph.

Caused plenty of debate

The move divided opinion, however, with former Scotland head coach Matt Williams particularly critical.

Ireland legend Keith Wood also had his doubts, but others have come out in defence of the Boks and praised their different approach to the game.

The next step could be to include all forwards, but although Erasmus has ruled that out, the director of rugby insists that South Africa may go with the 7-1 split.

“I don’t think we can go 8-0; that would be a bit extreme. But 7-1 is definitely an option, and we are considering that,” he told reporters.

“I think there is a lot of teams doing really innovative things; we saw a lineout this weekend, I think it was Portugal, a fantastic old-school lineout.

“I think sometimes when you do things you did many years back, people see it as innovation, but it’s just stuff that you remembered that worked way back.

“Obviously, the 7-1, a couple of years ago, the 6-2 was very new to people, a lot of teams are now doing 6-2.

“If you go 7-1, you have to have players like Kwagga Smith who is used to playing Sevens or able to play against Fiji and guys in one-and-one situations.

“But then again, you’ve got Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray or, I’m not sure which number nine will play (for Ireland), that can exploit you when they get it in the air and every area of the game.”

Defence over attack

Ireland are arguably the best side in the world with ball in hand due to their ability to keep hold of possession.

Their multi-phase attack is incredibly difficult to combat, but Andy Farrell’s side are coming up against the premier defensive system in the game this weekend.

South Africa did superbly to limit Scotland to just three points during their opening Pool B clash, and Erasmus is hoping to negate the Irishmen’s strengths in Paris on Saturday.

“I think the other thing we can do is really try and beat Ireland at what they do really well, which is a beautiful attacking game, with a solid defensive system,” he added.

“Technically, they’re a really sound team. I don’t think there are any weird tactics that will help us with this game.”

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