Bomb Squad still has bang for their Bok
Beast sees another mission for SA’s muchvaunted pack against the British & Irish Lions
● Their explosive properties may have gone undetonated since the 2019 Rugby World Cup (RWC), but the Springboks’ deployment of their infamous Bomb Squad can be a powerful weapon in the series against the British and Irish Lions later this year.
Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira, who was an integral part of the Springbok pack in their victorious 2019 campaign, has no doubt reprising the Bomb Squad, or the deployment of six battle-hungry forwards off the bench, can again be used to devastating effect against Home Union nations.
Doubt through injury
The efficacy of the Bomb Squad has been placed in doubt through injury and retirement but Mtawarira, who was largely part of the starting team that laid the foundation for the Bomb Squad at the RWC, believes they can again come off the bench with a bang.
“I definitely believe they can. Our strength as SA rugby lies in our forwards, especially the way we approach the set piece,” said the Beast.
“Rassie Erasmus [SA Rugby’s director of rugby] and Jacques Nienaber [Springboks coach] are great thinkers and would have plotted how to take Springbok rugby forward.
“They have been chatting to the players. A foundation has already been laid and the guys will know what is expected of them,” said Mtawarira, who last week followed Bok captain Siya Kolisi into Roc Nation’s talent management fold.
Mtawarira and Francois Louw’s retirement, as well as long-term injuries to PieterSteph du Toit, Lood de Jager and RG Snyman, have stripped away some of the bullet-proof exterior the Boks boasted at the RWC. Of course, some of them may be restored to full fitness by the time hostilities commence in July.
Mtawarira reminds of the country’s vast human capital.
“Obviously there has been injury to certain individuals, but I believe we still have a really strong squad. We have some youngsters coming onto the scene that are exciting. Rassie and Jacques will look at them and probably get a couple of those into the squad. It is just gonna bolster the team.”
One of the “amazing youngsters”, as he describes them, is Sharks loosehead prop Mtuthuko Mchunu.
“His potential is really great. He will get better and better. There is also Vincent Tshituka at the Lions, I like him a lot.”
He also took note of some of the more subtle artistry at play in the domestic game.
“Wandisile Simelane at the Lions is an exciting young backline player. I believe he’s going to play for the Springboks for a very long time.”
Though the game has evolved since November 2019 when the Springboks last played, Mtawarira believes his former teammates can still tap into the beastly qualities of the Bomb Squad.
“We can still deploy the Bomb Squad mentality, maybe with a bit of tweaks here and there, some points of difference because it can’t be the same. I still think we can use it effectively,” insisted Mtawarira.
The Bomb Squad, or its effect, was keenly felt in the knockout stages of the last RWC. The Springboks’ ability to deploy six forwards, effectively five tight forwards and Louw, and just two backs made for a winning recipe as it served to first blunt then batter the opposing pack.
Having six fresh forwards help settle scrumming arguments and the five penalties the Boks earned in the RWC final against England were worth their weight in gold.
Mtawarira believes the devastation caused by the Bomb Squad on Wales and England in the semifinal and final of the RWC respectively would have left mental scars with the players who will also be involved in the Lions series.
“The memories will still be there and they are still hurting. We did break their hearts, you know. They will be coming out here for revenge. It is going to be war out there. It is going to be a proper battle.
“The Springboks, I have no doubt, will be up for the challenge.
“We are going to see one of the most heavily contested and physical Lions series here.”