Coaches welcome rolling subs at Easter Festival games

A dozen or so asked school rugby coaches applauded the use of rolling subs at all three big annual Johannesburg based Easter Rugby Festivals this year.

Rolling subs is basically a system that allows unlimited changes to the 15 on the field of the 23-player squad. In other words, during a match players can be taken brought on and taken off as many times as a coach pleases.

Interestingly many coaches still view the Easter Festivals for it’s orginal purpose, as a preseason event. So the philosophy is use the matches to test aspects of their team’s play.

With three games in five days, another major benefit has to be player welfare.

Typically parents/sponsors of touring players pay the same amount irrespective of whether their boys are first choice or replacements, so providing all players a chance to participate in all three games is amongst the benefits, especially for traveling supporters of the “fringe” players.

Here is one of the many good and positive replies received:

The rolling subs are a wonderful idea. A number of teams had not played much rugby before the festivals which originally was the purpose of these festivals.

Being able to sub allowed us to build a base for our squad to work from in the season. We were not settled as a team from a combinations perspective.

By being allowed to use rolling subs we were able to experiment a bit.

I definitely think that it is a practice that should continue at festivals. It fits well into our team’s philosophy of how everyone plays a role. We refer to our squad as starters and finishers. Our approach for the festival was to achieve our goals as 23 players and not just as 15 players. Every player in our squad played in every match at the festival. No one had less than 20 minutes per game. We broke up each much into quarters with a lot of planning going into the selection of our squad to cater for this. However, due to the make-up and balance of our squad we were not able to start everyone.

It is always difficult as a coaching team to give every player a fair amount of game time. The rolling subs idea allows one to carter for this. It makes it a lot easier to get everyone on the field. We felt that we made full advantage of it and proved that with high risk comes high reward.

Here’s another meaningful contribution from a different well-respected school coach:

I think it’s nice for festivals but can be disruptive to rhythm at times. We started with a plan but it often went out the window. It is nice because if a 1st choice player goes down or get a minor injury you can send them back on and also as it’s “running time” you can continue play while you sort the player out and play can go on.


  1. Great idea and this should be extended to all levels of schoolboy rugby. We tend to forget that the boys are still in a learning phase of the lives where skills, knowledge and behavior are taught, learned and harnessed. Yes, we all see our children as future stars and why not, but remember they are just kids? I like the concept……

  2. @Valkie: Moet sê ek hou ook baie van die idee. Vir ons skole wat partymaal sukkel om B span wedstryde te kry, help dit om ons “diepte” on par te hou. Dit gee ook geleentheid aan die reserwe om die druk te ervaar aan die begin en of middel gedeelte van die wedstryd. Dit is dikwels baie anders as wat dit sou wees aan die einde waar ‘n wedstryd dalk al reeds gewen of verloor is,

  3. @Valkie: Brilliant idea indeed for festivals. Good for rotation and also a great way to get combinations right in a real game situation for the season ahead.Coaches will need to be smart about it to avoid disruptions, but heck, it’s the boys that benefit at the end of the day. I wholeheartedly support this move.

    I think for lower teams where maybe a school has C teams but not enough ‘fringe players’ to make up a D team; or the ‘fringe’ 8th team players who don’t have the numbers to make up a 9th team. Would be a tough call for the higher teams as every boy wants their full 60-70 minutes of play – and applying it across the board would lead to other boys getting more game time than others. Unless all teams start using the squad system across the board.


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