The main reason for the change was to curb the scourge of games finishing with uncontested scrums
In keeping with its reputation as rugby with a difference, the SuperSport Rugby Challenge became the first domestic tournament to use rolling subs.
The opening matches of the campaign this weekend, saw teams being allowed 12 rolling substitutions each game, four of which had to be reserved for players in the front row, with sides that causes uncontested scrums being penalised by being reduced to 14 players.
The main reason for the change was to curb the scourge of games finishing with uncontested scrums, according to SA Rugby’s referee manager Banks Yantolo. “The decision to allow rolling substitutions, which we’re already using in our Under-19 Provincial Championship, was done with player welfare and safety, especially at scrums, as well as reducing the likelihood of uncontested scrums to protect the integrity of the game, in mind,” he said.
The reaction from the coaches has been encouraging, with finalists Griquas’ coach, Peter Engledow, particularly excited, having trialled rolling subs from his time as a coaches’ coach for the RFU in England.
“It’s actually not new, we used it when I was working of the England Rugby Union (RFU),” he told OFM Sport. “We trialled it there and we used 10 rolling subs back then, and it worked extremely well. I think that it is very beneficial, especially in the front-row.
“In the past, many teams – us included – would bring a prop off and then you would have to fake an injury to bring the prop back on. This was the only way that you could do it, so this eliminates all that. It’s clear and you can also use it quite strategically, even with the seven subs.”
Engledow’s counterpart in last year’s final, John Dobson, made similarly encouraging noises, even though he also pointed out some potential flaws: “I’ve got some reservations, the main one being that sometimes when you play against teams that play with tempo chances are you can refresh your team and they don’t get the reward for playing with intensity.”
Border Bulldogs coach Tiger Mangweni, whose team has barely trained over the last fortnight due to the union’s near-liquidation, agreed by saying the move was a godsend for a team like his: “It’s come at the right time for us because we don’t know where we are in terms of our fitness.”