Cull a defender to make space

Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

Rugby is not the game it used to be. Players are bigger, stronger, fitter and faster. Tasks that could only be completed by all eight forwards working together are now handled by just two or three players, and sometimes even backs! Defence is no longer an optional extra for the ‘okes’ who had less than five beers the night before, instead it is an impenetrable wall of science.

The end result is that the ‘fatties’ are not kept busy on a single part of the field. Something that used to allow the peacock type ‘thinnies’ out wide to strut their stuff in miles of open space.

So we have a shortage of space, a game made overly complicated by the clumsy oafs who run the show, which is implemented via the subjective interpretation of referees under pressure to speed the game up.

We also have the primary try scoring method being via legalised obstruction called a driving maul. This because unless you have a man-beast like Nemani Nadalo out wide or a freakish talent like Sonny Bill Williams or Israel Folau at centre or fullback, it’s pretty damn hard to score tries!

While remaining true to the changes made to make it safer, the game needs to be simplified, and we need to find ways to create more space.

I suggest the following:

Scrum: If needed, allow the props to steady the scrum pre-hit by putting their hands on the ground. Allow props to bind anywhere. Allow scrumming in, but not scrumming up to force the pop. Enforce the straight feed so as to get the scrum set higher.

Maul: Allow teams to maul all they like, from wherever they like, but in a maul, the player carrying the ball must be at the front of the maul. This makes it a fair contest as the opposition can then tackle the ball carrier, but still allows for mauling skill. This in the old fashioned ‘rolling maul’ way, though, where you had to slip the ball to the person rolling off the side of the maul.

Breakdown: Both the tackled player and tackler can play the ball immediately from wherever they find themselves. Players arriving at the tackle situation can play the ball, be it on the ground or in the air, but must approach from behind the ball.

The biggie: While the attacking team continues to play with 15 players, the defending team plays with only 14, these to be chosen from the 15 players that started the game or were subbed into the game after kickoff. The attacking team to be defined at every primary restart such as a scrum, lineout and kick in, and the defending team given 15 seconds to decide on the player being left out. The team playing with 15 men get 4 points for a try, while the team playing with 14 men get 5 points for a try.

It’s bold and brave, and perhaps just a little insane… But not without precedent. Cricket is hardly a sport sailing in the calmest of seas right now, but knowing that the fans wanted sixes rather than wickets, the powers that be implemented rule changes like limiting bouncers and restricting the amount of players in the deep to do exactly that.

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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