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VIDEO: Rassie on the 'four meanings' of his disco lights and why he was kicked off the bench

You can call Rassie Erasmus many things – eccentric, an agitator, a firebrand and many more.


What you can’t deny is that he is innovative in his approach to the game and the type of character the game needs – a bohemian who pushes the boundaries.

His disco lights (some call them traffic lights) are just one of the many ways he gets people talking.

Even though he first started using them – first training cones, then colour flashcards and finally the lights – while coaching at the Cheetahs between 2004 and 2007, it is at the World Cup in France where he really got the tongues wagging.

In South Africa’s opening match against Scotland, an 18-3 win for the Springboks, the big in-stadium screen started broadcasting visuals of Erasmus and his staff using the lights as a means to send messages down to the field.

Hypotheses and assumptions as to the meaning of the different colours – repeatedly used in subsequent matches – have been aplenty.

Now, Erasmus, in the build-up to the World Cup quarterfinal between South Africa and France in Paris on Sunday, has opened up about the subject and also revealed why he started using them at the global showpiece.

(WATCH as South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus explains the meaning of his disco lights and also why was ‘kicked off the Bok bench’ at the World Cup...)

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“The traffic light system has basically four different meanings and it changes every game.

“Sometimes you can say over the microphone listen they’re green and that means something or the physios and doctors.

“We get live heart rates of the players – we can see which players recover and which don’t recover

“When we want to make substitutions, we sometimes want info back from the physio and S&C coaches.


“What they think, which player is the least effective or not as dynamic and effective anymore

“When we do substitutions we need information.

“Some people think it means [the players must] kick, other people think it means play slower, other people think it’s [an indication to] kick the ball wide but

“For us it is really just a way of communication.”

He also revealed that he was sitting on the replacement bench, in the technical area at the side of the field, in previous matches.

However, World Rugby – according to Erasmus – added an addendum to the participation agreement which they were not aware of.


The addendum stems from a trial World Rugby had in 2022 for the technical area in which not just coaches, but also Directors of Rugby, could not sit in the technical area.

“In the first game [against Scotland in Marseille], I was sitting on the bench with the players,” the SARU boss said.

“A very nice match commissioner said [to me]: ‘You can’t sit there’.

“I said: ‘I didn’t know, I don’t want to cause trouble, but I have sat here for all the other matches.

“He said to me: ‘No, it was an addendum to the participation agreement’.

“He showed me and said he also didn’t know that.”


Erasmus explained that sitting on the bench allowed him to communicate with the doctor and the physio on the field.

“In the [Scotland] match I had to move up to the coaches’ box and that is when we started putting on the lights as I couldn’t talk to the medical staff.

“So it’s really just a form of communication, to get messages to players, but to know what medical and S&C staff are thinking.”


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