Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has somewhat unconvincingly defended his substitution of Bongi Mbonambi by claiming the 27-year-old lacked match fitness.
The starting hooker was substituted after just 35 minutes during the 23-18 loss to the Australians in Brisbane on Saturday, almost immediately after the bizarre overthrown lineout that ended up costing the Boks the match.
Mbonambi, close to his own tryline, had seemingly tried to find a teammate that wasn’t part of the set-piece but captain Siya Kolisi wasn’t quick enough to react and Wallaby centre Matt Toomua dotted down under the posts.
The substitution looked every bit an angry reaction.
However, Erasmus insists Mbonambi had “emptied his tank” before then.
“Bongi has not played a lot and you could see he was struggling,” said the national coach.
“We tell the guys to empty the tank, see how far you can go and then we will bring the guy on the bench on and he will try to finish the match.”
In fact, such a strategy is apparently part of the Boks’ playing philosophy.
“You can ask the guys, the deal is everyone plays as long as he can and as soon as you start struggling, the sub comes on. I substituted my captain (Kolisi) a few times during the June Tests,” said Erasmus.
Yet this strategy seems at odds with what the former Bok flanker wants from his team at the moment.
Following the loss to Argentina in Mendoza, Erasmus stated South Africa would now have to win at all costs.
Can that involve using your starting hooker for just 35 minutes because he’s lacking match fitness?
Wouldn’t a bench role have been better then?
His replacement, Malcolm Marx – who also missed a lineout – was on the bench because he needed to be managed.
Does 45 minutes of play constitute player management?
Erasmus insisted the blame for the butchered lineout didn’t lie with Mbonambi.
“It definitely was not for the overthrow because that was more a combination between Siya and the guys. It definitely wasn’t his fault.”