New rules, new Boks?
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Up front, hearty congratulations to a young, gutsy and passionate Western Province side for taking the home the Currie Cup silverware this year. I have criticised them for a somewhat sterile attack while seemingly focusing only on defence and the rolling maul, but on Saturday when flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis started taking the ball up or giving his backs the ball instead of kicking it away, the men in blue and white played some fantastic rugby.
I do think the Sharks choked, but WP’s sheer passion and will to win was too much for the home side to handle on the day. It was a great final, and a fitting finale to what is still a top notch tournament - despite plenty empty seats in Durban. It is certainly several notches up on a Rebels v Force snoreathon, and more than comparable with the Canterbury v Auckland ITM Cup final held earlier in the day.
Onto the Boks, as they head to the UK to take on Ireland, Scotland and England over successive weekends next month. It is not only the opposition that they will need to research, but also three new laws that they will have to abide by.
These being a 23-man match-day squad, the new scrum engagement process, and the ball having to be used within five seconds of it being made available at the base of a ruck...
23-man match-day squads - in operation in the UK Premiership since 2009 - must include a full front-row on the bench in an attempt to rid rugby of a modern day scourge - uncontested scrums. And if all suitable replacements have been used and another front-row injury occurs, that team will be reduced to 14 players.
Rassie Erasmus started the illegal, but tough to police, “prop rotation” system with the Cheetahs, and there have been many allegations since then with regard to front row injuries being real or not. If under the kosh come scrum time, it has been too easy to fake a front row injury and bring in the “granny” scrum. It seems such an obvious rule, especially at international level. One has to wonder why it has taken so long for it to be implemented here in SA?
Not only do uncontested scrums get eradicated, but also the recently created “utility prop” position. Often unable to command a place at either loose or tighthead in the starting XV, this man becomes a useful bench option because he has the ability to play both sides adequately. A player like CJ van der Linde comes to mind. Now props can focus on a particular side and become specialists again... and that can only be good for South African scrumming.
The new scrum engagement process will see the referee call “crouch” then “touch” and then “set” to engage the scrum, with the word “pause” removed. It did not seem to help too much in the ITM Cup final on Saturday, but ex-Bok forward coach, and now Bath head coach, Gary Gold, tells me it has improved the setting of scrums immeasurably, reducing the amount of resets. Again, this can only be good for rugby as the sport seeks to up the entertainment level.
And the one I cannot wait to see in action: The ball has to be used within five seconds of it being made available at the back of a ruck. So it’s basically “use it or lose it”. No more of those pesky worms the Boks like to put together in order to telegraph a box kick from Ruan Pienaar. And no more of those little kicks back into the ruck by Pienaar as he works out where the kick should go!
Regular readers of this column will know that I am all for a quicker, possession based game that sees players aiming for space before trying to get the ball away in the tackle, and this rule looks to get teams playing that kind of game.
It might even force Bok coach Heyneke Meyer to try it. Well, one can only hope...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 …
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.