Know the game

2011-09-03 19:43

Millions of South African sports fans will be glued to their TV sets over the next six weeks when the World Cup kicks off in New Zealand on Friday.

Many will be wondering what the fuss is about 30 men throwing an oval-shaped ball around.

If you’re confused by the sight of grown men running up and down a pitch seemingly trying to pull each other’s pants down, here’s an idiot’s guide to the event everybody’s talking about:

The object of the game
According to the rules of International Rugby Board, the rugby mother body, the object of rugby is: “two teams should, by carrying, passing, kicking and grounding the ball, score as many points as possible to try to win.”

Rugby football is named after the English public school where the sport began. History tells us that one of the school boys picked up the ball during a football match and to the amazement of his fellow pupils, ran the length of the field and deposited it in the net, thus scoring the first ever “try”.

Rugby is played with an oval ball by two teams consisting of 15 players
each. The teams battle it out over two halves of 40 minutes.

The aim
To score more points than your opposing team by touching down over the opposing side’s line. Players can run with the ball under their arm and pass it using their hands or feet.


Players can stop their opponents in full flight by tackling. A tackle is when
a player takes another one down, when the ball has to be released or passed.


While the aim is to get up-field, players pass the ball backwards as forward passing is forbidden. However, kicking the ball up-field is allowed.

If a player passes the ball forward, the match referee orders a scrum. In a scrum, eight forwards from each team bind together and push against each other. The scrumhalf (the player wearing jersey No 9) from the team that has been awarded possession feeds the ball into the centre of the scrum from the side most advantageous for his hooker player (jersey No 2).

A maximum of seven and a minimum of three forwards line up parallel with each other between the five-yard and 15-yard lines. The hooker of the team in possession throws the ball in.

The ball must be thrown in straight down the middle of the lineout and the hooker must not cross into the field
of play while throwing in.

Jumpers can be lifted by their teammates, but the opposition’s jumpers must not be obstructed, barged or pulled down.

A ruck is formed when two or more players from opposing sides arrive at
a breakdown in play and the ball is on the ground.

A maul is essentially the same thing as a ruck but the ball is held off the ground by a player.

You score more than one point at once: five for a try and two extra (a conversion) following a try; three for a drop-goal and three for a penalty kick.

How to score
Try: A try is scored when a player grounds the ball over the opposing team’s try line.

Conversion: After scoring a try, a team’s kicker can “convert” the try by kicking at goal from a point in line with where the try was scored.

: If a team commits a serious offence, the referee awards a penalty and the opposition can take the option of a place kick at goal from where the infringement occurred.

Free kick : This is a lesser form of the penalty. A team cannot kick for goal (unless it is a drop-goal). The normal 22-metre line rule applies for kicking for position from a free kick. It is signalled by the referee with a bent arm raised in the air.

Drop-kick: The ball must touch the ground before it is kicked between the opposing team’s goalposts, above the horizontal bar. It is worth three points.

Now you’re armed with all the rugby basics, enjoy the game and support.

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