Who will follow Rassie's 'bomb squad' bench plan in Super Rugby?
JOHANNESBURG – How will Rassie Erasmus’ 6-2 bench split, used so successfully by the Springboks at the recent Rugby World Cup in Japan, impact Super Rugby next year?
That is one of the big questions doing the rounds at the moment following Erasmus’ decision and plan to utilise an almost full pack from the bench in the second half of his team’s matches in Japan.
Some observers, among them former England international Jeremy Guscott, have said World Rugby should in future limit the number of replacements that can be used from the bench, but others have said being able to use all eight replacements is essential considering the fast-paced and energy-sapping game that is played nowadays. Also, injuries have increased and due to safety concerns in the front row it is important to have two props and a hooker on the bench.
It is interesting though that it took so long for a coach and team to get the maximum benefit out of having eight bench-sitters.
And all it took was for the Bok boss to drop a backline player and replace him with a forward, giving him a full tight-five and one back-row player to come on in the second half and have an impact.
Sure it was something of a gamble to have only two backs on the bench, but not so if you’re covered in every position by making use of utility players and one of your loose-forwards can fill in at wing - in an emergency.
Erasmus’ plan worked a treat and it’s something England boss Eddie Jones should be embarrassed about not countering. Jones knew the Boks favoured the 6-2 bench split from the knockout rounds and he knew the Bok pack would be all-changed after half-time in the World Cup final against his England team yet he did nothing to counter it.
The importance in modern day rugby of a dominant scrum, line-out and forward pack cannot be underestimated. And so, too, also being able to dominate for the full 80 minutes.
Erasmus’ World Cup 6-2 bench split plan has got many observers talking and one wonders who will follow suit in the Super Rugby and Six Nations competitions?
New Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen, for one, said on the day he was announced as Swys de Bruin’s successor recently that he’d picked up plenty of useful information of some new trends in rugby during the World Cup. He mentioned the Boks’ strong kicking game and playing for territory and you can be sure he’d also have noted how having six forwards on the bench helped get the Boks across the line. It’s probably one of the reasons why the Lions are especially interested in having quality prop depth and are chasing the signatures of veteran 2007 World Cup winner Jannie du Plessis and rookie powerhouse Carlu Sadie.
The Boks’ game-plan in Japan wasn’t always pretty but it was highly effective and in the cut-throat world of professional sport winning is all that matters. And it’s the same in Super Rugby where the Lions, Sharks and Stormers are still chasing a maiden title, while the Bulls will be out next year to reach the heights they once achieved several years ago now. Don’t be surprised if all four these teams then - with the input of Erasmus, who is SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby - adopt a similar style of play as the Boks did in Japan.
It’s still a few weeks away, but the first few rounds of the 2020 Super Rugby season are sure to raise a few eyebrows.@jacq_west