We take a look at South Africa's massive forwards reinforcements
On their way to triumph in Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, South Africa’s director or rugby Rassie Erasmus – then the head coach – adopted a system of setting up his bench for maximum impact. By using a six-two split (with six forwards and two back on the bench) the team could maintain a level of physical output up front. This group of six massive reinforcements in the forwards came to be known as the ‘Bomb Squad’.
Since, it has been used as a shorthand for the Boks swapping their whole front row.
It was something that was talked about at length ahead of the British & Irish Lions 2021 tour.
In the South Africa team to face the Lions in the first Tests Boks boss Jacques Nienaber had to change tack somewhat. The coach spoke previously about his desire to stick with the tactic, however, with the disruptions a Covid-19 outbreak in camp had caused, the South Africans opted to forego the use of a six-two split.
“We went against the six-two split purely because of the situation,” Nienaber said. “When I refer to the situation what I am saying is that Handre (Pollard) has not had a lot of rugby recently. And Makazole Mapimpi too. Both of them are just back from Covid so we decided that maybe this wasn’t the right time to go with just one back covering on the bench because if we had a problem with one of those guys we could be in trouble.
“The thing about a six-two split is that we will go with it when we feel it is available to us and we are comfortable with it.”
And while it is not included in their game plan every match, the tactic has continued to be a feature of the team’s game.
Will the bomb squad be in action for the 2023 Rugby World Cup?
The team are sure to use their bomb squad tactics in order to retain the World Cup. However, it will be depend on both who is fit, and what tactics best suit their opposition.
The bomb squad has also been put under pressure in the Rugby Championship.
It excelled against Australia with the team coming away with a huge 43-12 win and coach Nienaber commented on the science behind it ahead of the game. “I can’t comment on what Australia is going to do and what their team will look like,” Nienaber told @rugby365com.
“But with the 6-2 split, and with Damian (Willemse) and Grant (Williams), that can cover us, it gives us the best opportunity. It’s something we have used in the past with success, obviously there is no perfect scenario, be it 5-3 or 6-2, there is always a bit of risk in both.
“But with us, we feel with the cover we have on the bench in those two players, gives us the luxury of going with the 6-2 split.”
But the bomb squad fell short against the All Blacks.
New Zealand outmuscled the Springbok forwards to seal a 35-20 victory. All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said: “We stung them at the start with the tempo we played at. I thought our desire to play on top of them early was there and we got good reward for it.”
Despite recent run-outs, the bomb squad is sure to be in the team’s arsenal for the tournament being held in France and in the side’s final World Cup warm-up against New Zealand, when a late injury to Willie le Roux came in pre-kick off, the Boks opted for a seven-one split on the bench!
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