Cape Town - Former Springbok scrumhalf Neil de Kock says he was puzzled by former England centre Jeremy Guscott's comments regarding substitutions.
Following South Africa's 32-12 win over England in the Rugby World Cup final, Guscott called on World Rugby to reduce the number of substitutions allowed during games.
"It's a little bit of a strange comment from my point of view for Jeremy to suggest that coaches should only be allowed to make three - instead of the customary eight - substitutions," De Kock told Sport24 in an exclusive interview.
Guscott shared his views via a column for the UK-based The Rugby Paper where he 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.
De Kock, who played 10 Tests for the Springboks between 2001 and 2003, added: "I'm confused because it was no different for South Africa as it was for any other country playing at the World Cup in terms of how they were allowed to use their substitutes. Everyone was entitled to do exactly what South Africa did in terms of a 6-2 forwards to backs bench split."
This 6-2 forwards-backs bench split allowed Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus 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 Bok substitutions became a popular hit during the tournament and even dubbed themselves the "bomb squad".
De Kock added: "Rassie's planning was on point and he realised that the "bomb squad" was going to be instrumental in this team. Hats off to him because he was forward-thinking and innovative. Rules are rules and if England or New Zealand had done it, I don't think we as South Africans would have been moaning about it..."
If anything, De Kock believes coaches should be allowed to have more substitute options.
"We have been harping on about player welfare for the last decade and I still don’t think we have sorted out that issue. The fact is that players are played too often and get injured and now, if you want to have fewer substitutions, it doesn’t make sense.
"If anything there should be more substitutions from a player welfare point of view. We saw in the final, for instance, off the back of seven gruelling weeks Bongi Mbonambi and Lood de Jager going off, Eben Etzebeth holding his shoulder and Handre Pollard break a cheekbone and that's not mention the four or five Englishmen who were forced off the pitch injured. As such, to suggest that we should have fewer substitutions makes no sense at all."
De Kock, 40, represented Western Province and the Stormers when he became a Springbok. He left South Africa in 2006 to join English club Saracens, for whom he went on to play in 250 games.
- Compiled by Sport24 staff