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By Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sports Reporter

Rassie not bothered by 7-1 uproar: ‘We will use it again’

“We don’t care what other teams or people say, for us it’s what’s best for the Springboks and South Africa.”

Following the uproar in some parts about the Springboks using a 7-1 split on the bench in their 35-7 win over the All Blacks in last month’s Rugby World Cup warm-up match, SA Rugby’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus says they will use it again if the conditions allow for it.

Some in the international rugby community were highly critical of the Boks after they deployed a bench with seven forwards and one backline player in Cobus Reinach for their clash against New Zealand at Twickenham 10 days ago. 

Even after Boks coach Jacques Nienaber explained they only added Kwagga Smith to the bench following a niggling injury to Willie le Roux, the discourse continued.

Speaking to the media, Erasmus, who many may point to as the catalyst of the 7-1 split decision, gave his reaction to the uproar.

ALSO READ: Winning World Cup will require a squad effort, says Bok boss Nienaber

No law infringement

“We don’t care what other teams or people say, for us it’s what’s best for the Springboks and South Africa,” Erasmus told the media.

“I didn’t pay attention to it; if it was something that we did wrong, then it would have bothered me, we follow all the laws and protocols.

“I know the laws and the regulations well because if you coach or work at this level, you know the laws of the game. It wouldn’t have helped us to focus on the “woo haa” because there was nothing that we did wrong. I’m not surprised, because it’s something new, change is new to people,” he said.

When Erasmus introduced the 6-2 split, there was also a similar reaction but teams have grown accustomed to it as it has benefitted them. The Rugby World Cup winning coach explained the make-up of a 7-1 bench.

“Nobody had 6-2 splits, New Zeland did a 6-2 split against us, after we did the 6-2 split in Japan, Eddie (Jones) with his team did it, Scotland does it, Glasgow who has a lot of the Scotland players does it. A lot of teams all over the world do a 6-2 now.

“7-1 is one backline player less and one more forward. Do other teams have better backs than forwards, it depends on what the team’s make-up is. It also depends on your team buying into it, and do they believe in it? 

“It’s not something you can use week in and week out. You can’t roll the dice every weekend, apart from if you have good backup plans in place,” Erasmus said.

So, will the Springboks have a 7-1 bench again?

“I can’t speak for the other teams, but I do know if we get the opportunity and our team make-up, the fitness and sharpness of the best players that we want to get on the field, consisting out of a 7-1 split, we will use it again. That will be when the situation is right when we think the opposition might struggle to handle it,” Erasmus said.

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