South Africa and England accused of being ‘bad for rugby’ after World Cup bout

Lawes reviews England's Rugby World Cup semi-final loss to South Africa

Former Scotland coach Matt Williams has accused South Africa of being bad for rugby following their 16-15 win over England in the World Cup semi-finals on Saturday night. The Springboks completed an impressive comeback against Steve Borthwick’s side, only taking the lead with just minutes left on the clock.

The key to South Africa’s success at the Stade de France was penalty kicks, making use of Handre Pollard’s impressive accuracy from distance. However, Jacques Nienaber’s team have been slated for relying on set-pieces to try and win penalties rather than more ‘traditional’ tactics.

Australian pundit Williams is among those to criticise their style of play and feels that the world champions are not a great advertisement for rugby union with their scrum-heavy approach.

He told Virgin Media Sport: “What are you incentivising? By giving a penalty where you can take three points or kick for touch and start a maul, you are incentivising scrummaging to get the penalty. If you take that incentive away, well then what’s the incentive?

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“You get the ball to the backs, you have 16 forwards tied up so there is all this space. All through the 90s and early 00s, we had wonderful back row moves and wonderful backline plays coming off scrums, it was entertaining and it was great.

“The scrums were still there and they were a contest, you could still get a pushover try, but the referee wasn’t going to give you a penalty unless you did foul play or were offside. The game was much better for it…”

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England were not spared from the critique, as Williams continued: “South Africa and England are like great tax accountants, they find every loophole and exploit it brilliantly. I admire the intellect, but that is not good for the global game.

“It is not good for the other sides in the game like France, New Zealand, and Ireland, who are trying to play a more positive, ball in hand, entertaining game. We are in the business of entertainment. Is it a 15-man game or an 8-man game? Right now, it has become so biased towards scrummaging and mauling. The game is totally out of balance.”

Williams’ words of wisdom are likely to fall on deaf ears in the South Africa camp as they prepare for the World Cup final against New Zealand. Their tactics – overseen by director of rugby Rassie Erasmus – have allowed the Springboks to succeed so far in the competition and they won’t care about not winning ‘pretty’ as long as they lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

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