Rassie Erasmus has shrugged off the overreaction to the Springboks’ perceived intention to supercharge the bench at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
The Bok coaches pulled off a surprise with a 7-1 bench in London – after utility back Willie le Roux was forced to withdraw due to a rib injury and loose forward Kwagga Smith included among the substitutes – which helped South Africa hand the All Blacks the biggest defeat in their history.
However, it has also resulted in an uproar, with calls for World Rugby to limit the number of substitutions that a team can make, and Australian coach Matt Williams even argued that the Boks’ exploitation of the laws on substitutions is a safety issue and “against the spirit of the game”.
The Springboks have received support from former Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell and Australia’s head coach Eddie Jones, who is well-versed in the South African mentality from his time as a consultant under Jake White in 2007.
Speaking after the Boks finished their pre-World Cup camp in Corsica, Erasmus said they have not been overly phased by the reaction to their innovation.
“We have been in a bit of a bubble, because we are focusing on what we are trying to do and how we can be successful at the World Cup.
“We can’t really care about how other teams are doing it and what their opinions are. We are just staying within the regulations and the laws of the game.
“So for us, it’s about what’s best for our team, what works for us and that certainly won’t be the same from one weekend to the next. We don’t really care about what other teams say about it.
“It’s about what’s best for South Africa and the Springboks.”
Erasmus added that he knew the Springboks weren’t infringing on any laws when they decided to replace a back with a forward.
“I really didn’t pay much attention to [the reaction]. If it was something that we did wrong, that would have been something that bothered me. We follow all the laws and protocols.
“When I was playing, we only had two reserves. Then it became 22 and then 23 with a full front row [on the bench]. I know the laws, protocols and regulations really well. If you coach at this level, and work with coaches at this level, you know the laws of the game.
“I guess what I am trying to say, not being arrogant, is that it wouldn’t help us taking note of all of the hoo-ha, because we didn’t do anything wrong. I am not surprised, it’s new and people like to chat about that, but not really bothered.”