Who would want to dumb down our beautiful game?

gatesy Roar Guru

By gatesy, gatesy is a Roar Guru


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    South Africa rugby is trialling a bunch of new laws in the Currie Cup this year to speed up and simplify the breakdown.

    One that I particularly like is Law 15.4(c), where there is no 360-degree ‘gate’.

    The tackler must get up before playing the ball and then can only play from their own side of the tackle ‘gate’ to make the ruck simpler for players and referees and more consistent with the rest of that law.

    The others are:

    Law 20.5 and 20.5 (d) Throwing the ball into the scrum
    No signal from referee. The scrum-half must throw the ball in straight, but is allowed to align their shoulder on the middle line of the scrum, therefore allowing them to stand a shoulder width towards their own side of the middle line.

    Rationale: to promote scrum stability, a fair contest for possession, while also giving the advantage to the team throwing in (non-offending team).

    Law 20.9 (b) Handling in the scrum – exception
    The number eight shall be allowed to pick the ball from the feet of the second-rows.

    Rationale: to promote continuity.

    Law 20 Striking after the throw-in
    Once the ball touches the ground in the tunnel, any front-row player may use either foot to try to win possession of the ball. One player from the team who put the ball in must strike for the ball.

    Sanction: free kick

    Rationale: to promote a fair contest for possession.

    Law 16 Ruck
    A ruck commences when at least one player is on their feet and over the ball which is on the ground (tackled player, tackler). At this point the offside lines are created. Players on their feet may use their hands to pick up the ball as long as this is immediate. As soon as an opposition player arrives, no hands can be used.

    Rationale: to make the ruck simpler for players and referees.

    Law 16.4: Other ruck offences
    A player must not kick the ball out of a ruck. The player can only hook it in a backwards motion.

    Sanction: penalty

    Rationale: to promote player welfare and to make it consistent with scrum law.

    The six new aspects of law were part of the original 2015 laws review process, and were recommended to move to closed trial to provide a further analysis opportunity before a global trial could be considered.

    These closed trials were operational at the 2017 World Rugby U20 Championship, World Rugby Nations Cup, World Rugby Pacific Challenge, Americas Rugby Championship and Oceania Rugby U20 Championship, with positive outcomes.

    Law 15 (4) (c) means the tackler no longer has rights from where he finishes up in the tackle. He will now have to release the tackled player and get back behind and through the advantage line, and come in on his team’s side of the ruck. It’s meant to clean up rucks, eliminate the tackler from obstructing the tackled player getting at the ball and giving the halfback some clearance, and presumably assist the referee.

    Anything that speeds up the flow of continuity is a good initiative. Time and experience will tell.

    If you are rugby purist, standing on the sidelines close to the play, you can pretty much analyse what is going on in the rucks and mauls – in the early days of development of USA rugby they used to call them ‘dog piles’. Pretty apt.

    Recently, I was at Suncorp for the Brumbies vs Reds game. When the fog came down it was near impossible to appreciate anything other than when players were running with the ball (which wasn’t very often). Even the ground announcer gave up describing what the ref blew the whistle for, and let’s face it, a lot of rugby watchers wouldn’t know what the infringement was unless the ground announcer or the TV commentator tells them.

    I grew up watching the ‘dumbing down’ of rugby league, from the four-tackle rule to the six-tackle rule (designed for the sole intention of teams being able to beat the mighty Dragons), to imitating grid iron with their line-marking, to getting rid of most contests, except for the tackle. Then there was introducing shoulder charges and wrestling, and finally, the ultimate insult, de-powering the scrum.

    Leaguies think that the only worthwhile contest is smashing into each other. Seriously, it doesn’t take much imagination, does it?

    Don’t get me wrong. I love league and am a Broncos supporter. There are some brilliant athletes in that game, and highly professional people, and rugby can still learn a lot, but one of the reasons rugby league is so popular is that it is designed to be understood from the heights of the grandstand. To achieve that you need to make it simpler.

    So should rugby, but never to the extent of dumbing the game down.

    Our keepers of the flame do a pretty good job of that, and the old north-south divide of what people think is entertaining is slowly disappearing.

    Yes, the Northern Hemisphere still love their grinding style of footy, of which a lot might be to do with the weather. The Saffas do as, well, but I suspect that is more to do with their vision of manliness.

    Aussies love running rugby, such as we saw in the halcyon days of the late 1970s to the mid ’90s. I remember the ‘Greatest Test of All’ in Sydney 2000, when the All Blacks went into halftime four or five tries up and the Wallabies were shot ducks. Yet in the second half, the Wallabies blew the All Blacks off the park, or so it seemed, until Jonah Lomu crossed right at the death.

    The mood outside of the stadium that night was just electric. What a night and a true celebration of running rugby. That was the first game of rugby my new wife ever saw and she was hooked from that day on.

    But I digress.

    The South African experiment with the ruck, tackle and breakdown is thoughtful and innovative. In theory, they should make the breakdown and the contests that much easier for the ref to adjudicate and for the punters to understand what is happening – even from the highest heights of the grandstand.

    It is a great example of how to innovate without dumbing down.

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    The Crowd Says (25)

    • August 9th 2017 @ 10:43am
      Rugby Tragic said | August 9th 2017 @ 10:43am | ! Report

      Aussies love running rugby, such as we saw in the halcyon days of the late 1970s to the mid ’90s. I remember the ‘Greatest Test of All’ in Sydney 2000, when the All Blacks went into halftime four or five tries up and the Wallabies were shot ducks. Yet in the second half, the Wallabies blew the All Blacks off the park, or so it seemed, until Jonah Lomu crossed right at the death.

      Slight correction gatesy … that match in Sydney was dubbed the greatest game of all which of course is subjective. Aside from that in that game the AB’s went 24 nil up within the first 15 mins. Yet with Larkham leading the way, the Wallabies fought back and it was 24 all, neither team went into halftime with a lead.. The final score of 39-35 following the try by Lomu had the crowd on its feet (I was one of them) having witnessed virtually a point a minute .

      • Roar Guru

        August 9th 2017 @ 12:24pm
        gatesy said | August 9th 2017 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

        Yes, you are absolutely right about that game. it was late last night when I wrote that. Also right, maybe not the greatest Test, but certainly one of the best that I have seen.

        • August 9th 2017 @ 12:40pm
          Fionn said | August 9th 2017 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

          That Test, and the second British and Irish Lions vs South Africa Test in 2009 were my two favourites.

        • August 9th 2017 @ 3:49pm
          Fionn said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

          But 2004 Super 12 final was obviously the best match of all.

        • August 9th 2017 @ 4:53pm
          Jacko said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

          Geez what a game it was…My Brother decided he wouldnt travel over from NZ for that game as he had come over for the past few years and had seen more losses than wins but 4 days before the game he was given tickets from someone at his Hamilton Rugby club so he flew over and off we went….Estatic after 10 mins…sad after 40 and it went down to the last few plays of the game…..Lots of frendly banter on the train back to our Accom

    • Roar Guru

      August 9th 2017 @ 11:52am
      sheek said | August 9th 2017 @ 11:52am | ! Report


      Actually, I think the ABs were up 24-0 after only about 8 minutes!!!!!

      Tragic is right, the walls had levelled by half-time, 24-all.

      I have my own story to tell about this match which I am happy to share again.

      I was annoyed we had reached our seats just as the ref blew ‘game-on’. I like to sit & soak up the atmosphere at least 30 mins prior.

      We were still shuffling into our seats when ABs scored try no.1. “That’s unusual”, said my wife, who rarely shows any interest in sport.

      Still agitated at seating late, I replied gruffly, “Not that unusual, it happens from time to time”. But internally, I was p*ssed off.

      Then when ABs scored try no.2 my wife said” “Well, that must be unusual”. I replied, with rising alarm, “yes, that is unusual”. Internally, I was feeling sick.

      Then before we had time to digest try no. 2 came try no.3. Ignoring anything my wife might say, I turned to my brother on my other side & said: “If the ABs score again, I’m outta here”. I was not going to remain & watch a slaughter.

      Fortunately, it was the Wallas who scored the next 24 points.

      • August 9th 2017 @ 9:50pm
        Rugby Tragic said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:50pm | ! Report

        Haha! … I can understand that sheek … but the huge crowd was treated to a feast of running rugby.

        To me though (and being a little bias, staying with the AB) the game that I felt the most excitement in was in fact a game I could only watch on TV. That was the game between the Boks and AB’s in 2013 at Ellis Park with the Boks chasing a bonus point victory to take the RC for that year but had to stop the AB’s from taking any bonus point. It was an exhilarating game with 9 tries scored in the high veld. The game was won eventually by the AB’s 38-27

    • Roar Guru

      August 9th 2017 @ 12:04pm
      sheek said | August 9th 2017 @ 12:04pm | ! Report


      It annoys me that people say the four tackle rule was introduced to stop St. George, & I’m not a Dragons fan. This was purely co-incidental.

      It’s one of those myths that is allowed to perpetuate, like Phar Lap was deliberately poisoned.

      The thing is this, with unlimited tackles, there were far too many examples of matches, in the UK & France, as well as Australia & NZ, of teams having possession for less than 5 minutes out of 80. Clearly, there was nothing even-handed about this, or resembling anything like a contest.

      Last weekend I saw my old school Waverley 1st XV crush traditional rivals Knox 47-17 to win the CAS undefeated. However, the scoreline was misleading as Knox tried their guts out all game to get on the scoreboard.

      This was a wonderful exhibition of open, ball-in-hand running rugby with powerful bursts & huge hits. Indeed, the Kiwi teams, almost at every level, play this brand of rugby constantly.

      When you watch a schoolboy game of rugby like the one I mentioned, or watch the Kiwis teams at super rugby & international level, you realise the laws of the game are okay. it’s the skills of the players that are lacking.

      While it’s important to always look at improving the game as a spectacle, sometimes the answer is closer to home.

      Right now, here in Australia, the players at senior level sadly lack the quality in ability & skills level.

      I actually prefer six tackle rugby league. i think they got that part right. But i would like league to take scrums seriously again. maybe not to the same extent as union, but make it a contest for possession.

      I would also like the dummy half to again be able to strike for possession. No-on did this better that Georgey Piggins. Re-align these two things & rugby league might just get it perfect-right.

      • Roar Guru

        August 9th 2017 @ 12:26pm
        gatesy said | August 9th 2017 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

        Probably my memory, Sheek, but I was just a kid when St George failed to make the Grand Final after all those years (all my life was spent assuming we would always win) – so it was like losing a close relative. We looked for any old excuse = that one will do me!

        Anyway,. the point of the post was really about innovating and let’s face it, wherever the game is played in the world, we need to be able to clean up the breakdown and I reckon these experimental laws are heading in the right direction.

      • Roar Guru

        August 9th 2017 @ 6:47pm
        Cadfael said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:47pm | ! Report

        As I remember it Sheek, it was a request from the English Rugby league. Their local support was dropping and the four tackle rule was seen as a way ti improve the game in England. We just accepted what the poms wanted, a mistake but that’s history.

    • August 9th 2017 @ 1:47pm
      Johnny J-Dog said | August 9th 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

      Rugby outside of NZ is already boring for anyone who grew up on a diet of watching the Ellas, Hawker, O’Connor, Papworth, Campese, Gould, etc toss it around. If you’re under 40 you will have no idea how exhilarating it was like watching those guys play live. They stood so close and their moves were so intricate that only halfbacks did a spiral passes back then.

    • August 9th 2017 @ 2:40pm
      Red Menace said | August 9th 2017 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

      I disagree about that game in Sydney. It was a test match with such abysmal defence. I don’t rate it.

      My favourite game was at Dublin in ’91 against the World Champions at that time. Great defence and two glorious tries, real test rugby. I was also fortunate to be there the week before. After that game against the Irish, the Irish supporters were shaking my hand, patting me on the back, telling me to enjoy the Guinness tonight…..like I had anything to do with the Wallabies win!

      As for the Law changes, Law 20 intrigues me. If the ball goes into a scrum and there is such pressure that no team can strike for the ball, is that a free kick to the defencive team?

    • Roar Guru

      August 9th 2017 @ 2:49pm
      Timbo (L) said | August 9th 2017 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

      I think the Ruck gate is going to remove the tackler from pilfering all together.

      If the release, The player on the ground will just stand up. pick up the ball and run on.
      It will be in the tacklers best interest to hand on until the next player arrives.

      But I am just guessing.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 9th 2017 @ 2:53pm
        piru said | August 9th 2017 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

        I can’t see the law for the tackler having to go back around surviving the trial, personally.

        Also think there will have to be a bit of poetic licence allowed for refs around any kind of pilfering – as they form a ruck all by themselves.

        • August 9th 2017 @ 4:36pm
          carnivean said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:36pm | ! Report

          Read it again. Hands are allowed until an opposition player arrives. This mirrors the situation we have now.

          It logically must be changing only to prevent the Italian (vs England) tactic of not forming a ruck so as not to create an offside line.

          • August 9th 2017 @ 4:55pm
            AndyS said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

            But in that instance, it is still not clear where the defensive (Italian) offside line would be. There are no defensive feet, so is it the same as the attacking line? If so, still worth not engaging.

            It is annoying only being able to see what they think they’ve done, but not being able to see how they’ve actually re-written the law. Makes it more of an interpretation trial than a law trial…what you want to know is how the teams will actually twist it to advantage.