Rassie Erasmus accidentally admits to exploiting World Rugby loophole
Whether Willie le Roux legitimately had to pull out of the All Blacks match at the last minute or whether it was South Africa’s plan all along to field a 7-1 bench at Twickenham we will never know, but what we do know is that it worked.
Flanker Kwagga Smith came in to replace le Roux, and head coach Jacques Nienaber decided to unleash all seven of his forwards at once in the second half.
But what at first looked like a last minute decision by South Africa is increasingly looking like a premeditated plan. Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus was recently quizzed about the 7-1 split, and he responded by suggesting that his coaching team knew the All Blacks would “struggle” with that ploy, which they did.
He said: “We will definitely use it again, but that will be when the situation is right, when the opposition, we think, might struggle to handle it. But there’s other teams that will handle that with a breeze, so it won’t be every game.”
That does not sound like a last minute decision by Erasmus and Nienaber, that was preplanned. But was it allowed?
World Rugby regulations state that two international teams must exchange matchday squads 72 hours before kick-off. Take a look:
“9.16 Prior to an International Match, the following shall apply:
“(a) Unions shall reduce their Squad size to 26 no later than 96 hours prior to the kick off of an International Match;
“(b) 72 hours before the kick off of an International Match Unions shall announce and exchange a list of the 15 Players who will start the Match and up to 8 replacements/substitutes.”
So the All Blacks would have been given a team with a 6-2 split, just as it was announced. But the only way to truly catch the All Blacks off guard, was to exploit a loophole and feign an injury at the last minute.
Maybe le Roux genuinely had to pull out, but it would not be surprising if this was another Erasmus masterstroke and the best way to trial out an innovative new idea. Announce it in the week, the All Blacks would know what is coming. Make the change last minute, New Zealand stood now chance. If it comes off, it was genius, if it did not, it was only a last minute decision. Bravo Rassie.
Take a look at the interview:
💭 "It's definitely not something you can use week in, week out. You can't roll the dice every weekend."
Rassie Erasmus on the Springboks 7-1 bench split and the strategy behind it. pic.twitter.com/NPta8mQLxY
— SuperSport Rugby (@SSRugby) September 3, 2023