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Eddie Jones applauds innovative Springboks

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Wednesday Sep 6, 2023

Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones has never been one to shy away from thinking outside the box.

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Whether it is on the pitch or dealing with the media off it, Jones goes to the beat of his own drum.

It was little surprise that given his background, Jones would be an interested observer of South Africa’s unique utilisation of their bench in their recent 35 – 7 victory over the All Blacks.

Lauded as innovators over the past five years, Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber and Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus have taken South African Rugby from the doldrums to the top of the world since taking charge in 2018.

Taking over what was essentially a tyre fire operation that had been subjected to record defeats to the All Blacks and several other brutal losses. The dynamic duo reignited the Springbok brand en route to a World Cup victory in 2019.

During this run, the Boks reverted back to their strengths and were simply unapologetic about it.

Possessing quite clearly the best forward pack in the international game, South Africa made use of their strength in depth by utilising a 6 – 2 bench split.

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This allowed them to change the bulk of their pack more often than not in one hit.

Becoming known as the “bomb squad” the Bok bench played a key role in their dominant victory over England in the 2019 final.

Now, taking that thought process a step forward, their deployment of seven forwards from the bench at Twickenham had the rugby world talking.

Having physically dominated the All Blacks with their starting pack for the opening fifty minutes, the Boks would change seven of their starters.

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From here, there was no way back for the Kiwis as the fresh giants took to the pitch to close out the encounter in emphatic fashion.

Whilst several “experts” have called for a ban on allowing seven forwards on the bench, it remains within the rules and is clearly an effective option for the reigning world champions.

For his part, Jones was a fan of the innovation shown by the country he assisted to World Cup glory in 2007.

When asked what the next step would be in the progression of the bench splits, Jones quipped, “The next step is 8 – 0, mate.”

The Wallabies boss would then delve deep into the point, reminding all that just because something was traditional did not make it a law.

In fact, as Jones mentions, during his time as head coach of Japan, he employed nine forwards and six backs to start against Georgia, a side noted for their physicality.

Once again, this was interesting insight from Jones, who, despite being the human form of marmite, remains one of the game’s foremost innovators.

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