Sevens Heaven

2008-12-12 00:00

IT was an excellent and rewarding weekend for South African Rugby as the IRB Sevens came to George and the Springboks emerged with the bounty. South Africa produced one of the most outstanding sevens performances to beat the All Blacks in the final to win the George Sevens for the first time in the history of the IRB Sevens.

Sevens is a game of speed and skill and the teams did not disappoint as they withstood the heat in George this past weekend. The same goes for the referees as they came from different corners of the world to hone their skills in the refereeing circuit. This tournament showcased the younger, faster generation of referees and is an excellent breeding ground for young referees.

A concern is that the two referees that represented South Africa did not even feature in any of the finals and this highlights an on-going problem. The highest ranked South African was young Free Stater Jaco Peyper, who was caught out several times with his inability to think quickly on his feet. A prime example was in the match between Fiji and Argentina when the Argentineans kicked a ball through in the first minute of the match and it was a foot race to the in-goal area.

The Puma dived and scored what appeared a legitimate try, but was disallowed by Peyper as he claimed that the Puma player had shoved the Fijian off the ball. On the replay it was clear that Peyper got it wrong and in this format of the game such decisions can be disastrous.

OBSTRUCTION

(a) Charging or pushing. When a player and an opponent are running for the ball, either player must not charge or push the other except shoulder-to-shoulder.

Penalty: Penalty Kick

The other South African on show was Jason Jaftha of Western Province, the most improved referee at Saru this year. I found him most capable in all the games he refereed and it is clear that he has potential.

Saru should, however, help these young referees with their communication as this pays a major role in earning the respect of the players.

The recent England-All Black Test at Twickenham threw up an interesting talking point.

In the 70th minute of the match, Toby Flood (England) kicked the ball downfield from his 22-metre area. Sitiveni Sivivatu gathered the ball on the halfway mark, but realised that he was not going to stay in the field of play and dropped the ball inside the field before he stepped out.

As the ball bounced towards touch, Sivivatu knocked the ball back into the field of play while himself still being outside the touchline. He then steps inside the touchline and picks up the ball.

The touch judge then put up his flag for a line out. Correct? No.

Law 19: A player in touch may kick or knock the ball, but not hold it, provided it has not crossed the plane of the touchline. The plane of the touchline is the vertical space rising immediately above the touchline.

The ball did not cross the plane of the touchline. In touch, Sivivatu did not pick up the ball. The law says he was allowed to kick or knock the ball without holding it.

What a nonsensical law. Surely a player in touch should not be allowed to take part or influence the outcome of a game?

What was apparent from the match was that England were guilty of several cynical infringements at the breakdown and were heavily penalised with four players sin-binned. By the 78th minute, the English were baying for blood. James Haskell (England) picked up the ball from a rotating scrum and broke away. Ritchie McCaw was hanging on to the scrum illegally and when Haskell came around tackled him at his bootlaces. McCaw then got to his feet immediately and played the ball from a seemingly offside position. The referee then blew for a penalty against McCaw. The crowd demanded that McCaw be sent from the field for picking up the ball illegally at the tackle, but the fact was that McCaw was penalised for not staying bound to the scrum:

Law 20.3 BINDING IN THE SCRUM

DEFINITION

When a player binds on a team-mate that player must use the whole arm from hand to shoulder to grasp the team mate’s body at or below the level of the armpit. Placing only a hand on another player is not satisfactory binding.

The actions of McCaw at the tackle were actually legal as he was the tackler and the only player that does not have to enter this phase of play through the “gate”.

A crowd subjected to three successive defeats — by the Australians, the South Africans and the New Zealanders — at their own headquarters is hardly in the mood to show any objectivity.

•Michael Katzellenbogen is a former Test referee living in Pietermaritzburg. Your views to refscorner@mweb.co.za

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