Rassie Bomb Squad Springboks

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus talks about the Bomb Squad. Image: @Springboks/X

Rassie on Springbok bomb squad critics: Ireland don’t feel that way

Rassie Erasmus has laughed off a recurring critic of the Springboks’ forward-dominated bomb squad, suggesting ‘it doesn’t make sense’.

Rassie Bomb Squad Springboks

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus talks about the Bomb Squad. Image: @Springboks/X

For both Tests against Ireland, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has opted for a 6-2 forwards-to-backs split on the bench – famously known as the ‘bomb squad’.

This past weekend all six replacement forwards came onto the field early in the second half, and almost on cue, former Scotland rugby coach Matt Williams – who has been outspoken against the use of this tactic – again hit out at World Rugby for continuing to allow the use of a bench with this configuration.

Although Williams reiterated that the blame was not being levelled at the Springboks for using a ‘legal’ tactic, he did strangely suggest the bomb squad ‘discriminates against backs’.

“Our game is for all shapes and sizes, so in that game, you had 14 forwards,” he added. “That is not what our game was designed for, that’s not what the ancients designed for it, it’s not what we did in the 80s, 90s and 2000s.

“It is not a game for 14 forwards and nine backs. It should be relatively even; it’s never been 50/50 because we have eight forwards and seven backs [in the starting line-up], but that is not what it is.”

After naming a 6-2 bench once again this week, Erasmus admitted he had seen the comments from Williams on social media, but he then quite effectively dismissed the lack of logic in the argument.

“We do hear things and see things. I am on social media and I read things,” said Erasmus. “There are some things that you really take to heart and some things that you try to understand. I try stay in touch with South Africa and what our people feel and how they react, and I try to be honest with the media without giving too much away.

“To be honest with you, I’ve learnt that you know the laws and the protocols and you don’t go outside of the protocols. I’ve been slapped over my wrists for doing that and then had to learn and adapt.

“We could have sent them on one by one, but if all six go at the same time, I don’t know if that’s dangerous. Ireland also play with a 6/2…. I don’t think the Irish team feels that way and I don’t think Andy Farrell feels that way. I think it’s one individual who said that, but I’m not sure the Irish players would agree with it,” he added. 

“They’re too proud and they handled us well, and still after that scored two great tries to make it a tight game at the end. Some things make sense when you see them, and others don’t.”

You can hear what was said about the Springbok bomb squad below:


Earlier this year World Rugby outlined the next steps following agreement on an action plan at the Shape of the Game forum.

World Rugby has set out a five-phase approach to explore, adopt and trial the key outcomes, with a statement suggesting decisions are “being made through the lens of player and fan experience as rugby seeks to grow relevance and accessibility among a broader, younger audience. Evolution is focused on enhancing ball in flow, reducing stoppages and increasing welfare outcomes.”

The fourth phase outlined specifically involves specialist working groups that will be established to further explore aspects identified by the Shape of the Game forum for further consideration.

  • Replacements: Examine the latest research on the impact of fatigue and the number and timing of replacements in the elite game to determine options that might create more space on the field while improving injury rates.

It’s the point above which indicates how seriously World Rugby are considering making a key changes to the substitutions policies.