Boks unbothered by polarising 7-1 split reaction

  • By Kate Nokwe

  • 4th September 2023

Boks unbothered by polarising 7-1 split reaction

SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus says they will do whatever is necessary to give themselves the best possible chance of defending the Rugby World Cup, including the 7-1.

In their 35-7 thumping of the All Blacks at Twickenham two Fridays ago, South Africa had seven forwards and one backline on the bench, following the withdrawal of fullback Wille Le Roux on matchday due to a rib injury.

The change from the usual 6-2 split caused uproar world worldwide, with even calls for World Rugby to restrict the Springboks' tactics. However, Erasmus says they won’t be dictated to. 

"We've been in a bubble here [In France] and we are focusing on what we are trying to do and how we can be successful in this World Cup. With our planning, our team selection and spreading the load of our players. We can't really care how other teams are doing it and what their opinions are. For us, it's what's best for South Africa and for the Springboks”, he told the media. 

The 7-1 split was met with fierce criticism, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, with former Scotland coach Matt Williams calling it "against the spirit of the game", South Africa however, found allies like Wallabies coach Eddie Jones, who praised the coaching staff.

Erasmus defiantly argues they were not bothered by the polarising reaction because they were still colouring within the lines.

"I really didn’t pay much attention to it. If it was something that we did wrong obviously that would have been something that bothered me. I know the laws and the protocols and all the regulations really well because if you coach at this level and work at this level with coaches at this level, you know the laws of the game.” 

Erasmus, who is known for pushing the envelope and famously used the 6-2 split during South Africa’s 2019 Rugby World Cup winning campaign, says such reactions are to be expected when new things are tried.

"[I’m] not being arrogant, but it wouldn't help us really taking notice of all of that. It wasn't anything that we did wrong, so I'm not surprised. It's new to people and they like to chat about that, surprised but not really bothered."

The gamble may have paid off against fellow three-time World Champions New Zealand, in the Boks’ final World Cup warm game, however, Erasmus concedes it comes with risks and is probably not feasible each game.