Cape Town - Former Springbok captain Corne Krige says national coach Rassie Erasmus had a smart bench strategy during the team's victorious Rugby World Cup campaign.
"I think it was brilliant from Rassie Erasmus to pick six forwards and two backs on the bench," Krige told Netwerk24.
Krige was responding to comments made by former England centre Jeremy Guscott, who has called on World Rugby to reduce the number of substitutions allowed during games.
Guscott earlier this week shared his views via a column for the UK-based The Rugby Paper where he suggested that coaches should only be allowed to make three - instead of the customary eight - substitutions.
Guscott said the recent World Cup in Japan had "left the game on a high" but he had one reservation:
"It would be an even better sport if the bench was reduced in number. Half a team coming on with fresh legs and sharp minds against guys, who have been taken to the point of exhaustion, is pushing the game out of the realms of normality.
"We have got to make sure that rugby union remains a game in which skill and fitness are paramount - even though the fitness element has been eroded," Guscott wrote.
Krige, who played 39 Tests for the Boks between 1999 and 2003, said having a utility player is paramount to picking only two backline reserves.
"Remember, you can only do it if you have a guy like Frans Steyn on the bench, who can cover almost any position from No 10 to No 15. Without a guy like that you can't follow that strategy. Not every team has the players to do it."
He agrees with Guscott's views of improved skills and fitness, but noted that it's about "the number of matches and the amount of rugby played throughout the year".
"Especially props and hookers, those guys take an unbelievable amount of hits.”
Krige added that rules are there to be utilised.
"I don't think it's sour grapes (Guscott's views), but I wonder if he would have made those comments if England had the upper hand."
Erasmus' six-two forwards-backs split on the bench allowed the Bok mentor to keep his pack fresh throughout the tournament.
He was able to change almost his entire pack during matches, with only flank Pieter-Steph du Toit and No 8 Duane Vermeulen staying on the field.
The Springbok substitutes became popular during the tournament and even dubbed themselves the "bomb squad".
The Springboks won the 2019 World Cup after a 32-12 victory of England in the final in Yokohama. It was their third Webb Ellis Cup triumph after successes in 1995 (at home) and 2007 (in France).
- Compiled by Herman Mostert