Confusion over new experimental rugby laws ahead of new season

2008-01-26 00:00

There has been a good deal of confusion over the new experimental rugby laws and we are still awaiting the arrival of the new season.

The SA Rugby Union is now trying to clarify these law changes which are certain to cause frustration for players, coaches, spectators and television viewers with the luckless referees being left to carry the can.

The corner post

The corner post was initially going to be removed from the corner and be placed 1,5 metres away from the field of play in line with the other flag posts along the touch line. It has now been decided to keep the corner post in its original position.

The application now is to help touch judges determine whether the ball has crossed the touch-line or the touch-in goal line. The corner post will not influence decisions related to the touch, touch in-goal or the goal line.

This means that the ball or the ball carrier can hit the corner post but he cannot touch the lines. Now, if the ball strikes the corner post and bounces back infield, play will go on while previously the ball would have been ruled dead.

The tackle

The most important aspect of the new law for the spectator to remember is that an off-side line is created the moment a player is tackled. It spreads across the field from touchline to touchline.

This means that if a line-break occurs all the defending players must get on side first before becoming involved. If the attacking team runs five metres (two strides) or kicks the ball the defenders are placed on-side again.

The 22-metre direct kick out

This law basically means that if you, as the defending team, take the ball back into the 22-metre area from a pass, a scrum, a ruck or a maul you cannot gain ground when you kick the ball out on the full.

A concession was made this week by Sanzar that after the defenders have taken the ball into the 22-metre area and a tackle, ruck or maul occurs it will be seen as a new phase of play and that you now will gain ground from a kick that goes directly into touch. The same occurs when an opponent touches the ball.

Collapsing the maul

This is only applicable in South African domestic competition and not in the Super 14. It is now legal to collapse a maul by pulling it down.

What Saru has done this past week is to define how to pull it down and this reads as follows: A player in the maul is now allowed to pull down an opponent by grabbing him anywhere from hips to shoulders and pulling him to ground. If this causes the maul to collapse there is no penalty.

From the shoulders means not above the line of the shoulder. By the hips means not below the waistband.

This will change the way we defend a maul and, one hopes, it will spell the end of the boring “rolling maul.”

Free kicks and Penalties

Most technical infringements will be free kicks at the Super 14 and the only penalties will be for offside at the tackle, ruck, maul and scrums. We must not forget that at the scrum the off-side line for backs will be five metres back from the hindmost feet.

What will be applied in the Super 14 is that if the ball becomes unplayable at a ruck or maul, it still remains a scrum that restarts play, but in our domestic competitions play will restart with a free kick.

Rumours abound that Sanzar is considering doing the same in the Super 14, but no directive has been received as yet and I presume it is now too late to change it.

The European unions are not happy with the new law changes as they believe there is little wrong with the laws of the game as they stand.

The Six Nations, and all the European competitions, will be played under the current laws until June when the IRB meets again. Indications are that there will be fierce resistance from Europe to any law changes proposed by the Sanzar countries.

•Your views to refscorner@mweb.co.za. Michael Katzenellenbogen is a former Test referee who lives in Pietermaritzburg.

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