So from next year it will be a “crouch,
bind, set” scrum engagement sequence, which basically eliminates the hit from
And while some are already suggesting this
to be the beginning of the end of the scrum, I would wholly disagree...
As that legendary band, Semisonic, said in
the ditty “Closing time”... Every new
beginning comes from some other beginning's end.
And this is indeed a new beginning...
Implementation will begin at the start of
the next season in both hemispheres and follows extensive evaluation of the
sequence, which indicated the possible delivery of a more stable platform
leading to fewer resets and more successful scrums.
What we have currently is a complete mess
that calls for referees, under pressure to eradicate these time consuming
resets, to guess. And as such, they are awarding full arm penalties that lead
to points. Three points in a tight Springboks v All Blacks Test at Eden Park based on a
referee guess? The situation is untenable...
So in a revision of the ‘crouch, touch,
set’ engagement sequence currently being used, props will be expected to bind
using their outside arm after the referee has called “bind” in the sequence, maintain
the bind until the referee calls “set”. At that point, the two packs will
But perhaps the most exciting initiative to
go with this new engagement process, is that referees will now be instructed by
the IRB to police a straight feed into the scrum from the scrumhalf. At last I
say, with tears in my baby blues!
So what we have is a return to a scrum that
will be a fair contest not dominated by the pack who gets the best hit, but one
that combines strength with technique, and perhaps most importantly, timing.
SARU, no doubt seeing this coming, have
been very sharp in implementing this at all levels below club First XV
this season, but being involved with the UCT second XV, I can see that
most sides have taken this to mean the death of the scrum, and have resorted to
just using it as a way to restart the game.
At schoolboy level, you have to feed the
scrum as soon as the packs engage, you cannot shove more than 1.5 metres, and
you have to use the ball as soon as the ball reaches the eighthman’s
feet. So that really does virtually kill the scrum off as a weapon.
But under the new scrum engagement process,
the one currently being used by club second XV’s, you can feed the
scrum when you choose, do not have to use the ball when it reaches the eighthman's feet thus enabling you drive it up field if you have a superior scrum,
and If a scrum is wheeled through more than 90 degrees, the referee must stop
play and order another scrum, rather than give a free-kick. And you get to keep
a “mini-hit”... That is powerful.
So you can engage fairly powerfully, but
not with enough force to push the scrum up or down, still using a formation to
start your left or right shoulder, set up a post engage timing call to give
your scrum the “go-forward” as the ball is fed into the scrum, and keep the
ball at the back for as long as you want, thus setting up a “driving ruck”
should you be powerful enough.
And with the ball coming into the scrum
straight, get your timing right as a defensive scrum looking to disrupt the
opposition, both in terms of a strike from the hooker, or an eight-man shove, the
tighthead might actually come back into the game as a legit turnover. And we
all know how golden turnover ball is in the modern game.
I dare any coach to downgrade their props
to openside flanks, and locks to mere jumping beanpoles. They will suffer
accordingly come scrum time...
Sure it changes, but the scrum remains a
potent weapon, and long may it live!
For an explanation of engagement process in
detail, head to Front Row
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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