To my mind the rolling or driving maul is
nothing more than legalised obstruction... and this from a former tighthead prop
who likes nothing more than the fat guys up front having a proper go at each
Cross behind your own player with ball in
hand, or accidentally run into your own player who did not study the playbook
as well as he should of, and it’s a shrill blast of the whistle for obstruction
and a full arm penalty against you.
Yet set up a maul from a lineout, pull the
man with the ball to the back so he has six or seven team-mates ahead of him
forming a wedge - which is not allowed to be brought down because that would be
dangerous - and all is hunky dory?
Apart from not being particularly pretty to
watch, how can that possibly be deemed a fair contest?
People say the rolling maul is a skill, as
is the defending against it, and I would agree. Hence teams spending many hours
working on both setting it up and defending against it, but that does not make
it fair. You could spend the entire off-season working on defending the rolling
maul, but against a side which has spent half that time working on setting it
up, without being able to pull it down, you are always going to come second.
A very astute South African rugby analyst,
having seen my comments on getting rid of this so called “legalised
obstruction” on Twitter, came up to me at the finish of the Absa Cape Epic and
said: “But we would be getting rid of one of South Africa’s most effective
Which is true. And it is extremely clever
to have spotted a loophole in the laws to use to our advantage. But do we
really want to be known as the country that brought the rolling maul into the
game? And is it not just another example of us having to rely on brute force
rather than entertaining skills like off-loads in the tackle and clean line
Perhaps I am being a naïve romantic given
that rugby is now about winning at all costs, but setting up a maul from five
metres out to score a try through an unfair advantage is not what I pay to see.
And now we see plenty of that on Monday
nights as well. Included in the many challenges facing the Varsity Cup is the
rather unpleasant “maul fest” that has come as a result of the penalty being
downgraded to two points and a try being upgraded to six. So instead of taking the
points on offer via a penalty kick, it makes more sense for teams to set up a
lineout and got for the almost certain try via a rolling maul. So while getting
more tries (which was the objective of the change in points change), they are
coming from rolling mauls and not enterprising backline play.
And given the success ratio, it is even
creeping into the Crusaders game... all but one of the Crusaders' seven tries against
the Kings were scored by their forwards, and of the nine tries scored in the game, three came from rolling mauls!
Much like the skew feed into the scrum, the
rolling maul is a scourge on the modern game. Both create unfair contests, and
while I am pretty sure the former leads to more collapsed scrums as the
opposition are not given the opportunity to strike so have no reason to hold
the hooker up, the latter is just plain ugly to watch.
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 …
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