Imagine a flyhalf
being penalised by a referee for missing touch! Or how about a wing or centre
being yellow carded for coming off his defensive line and missing a tackle?
Oh jeez, what has the
fat man been smoking this week, I hear you ask. That would be bloody preposterous,
I hear you say.
abominable, ludicrous ... Call it what you will, and you would be right. Yet
every single week we see the former, and at least once a month we see the
In fact, in the
Crusaders v Lions game, we saw both happen at the same time! Poor old Julian
Redelinghuys was popped like the proverbial champagne cork by a rampaging Wyatt
Crockett, and instead of being left alone to hide in a team huddle while
pondering every tighthead prop’s worst nightmare, referee Nick Briant yellow
carded him and penalised the Lions!
Penalised and yellow
carded for having a poor scrum? How is that different to carding a centre for
missing a tackle or penalising a flyhalf for missing touch?
Preposterous indeed ...
Throw in the fact that
every single tighthead prop on Earth would rather scrum naked (think about
where the lock would have to bind) than suffer the embarrassment of being
popped, and I can guarantee you that it was not done intentionally. Yet still
the penalty and yellow card.
If anything, especially
given the joy that all loosehead props take from popping their opposite number,
it should probably have been Crockett who was pinged for scrumming up. Not that
I believe that to be the correct call either, though.
Just think about the
simple physics. Two 350kg front rows come together at the shoulder, with their
hips at 90 degree angles. Behind them are a 220kg lock pairing whose post
match beers from the front row depend on them not going backwards, ever. On
either side of the front row is a 100kg flank who won’t get lifted in the
lineout unless he makes an effort in the scrum. And as a backstop, you have
another 110kg Duane Vermeulen-type freak who has dug his heels in.
Where exactly do you
expect a prop to go if one of them gets the angle of the hit just slightly
wrong? Or if you are simply not strong enough or good enough to handle superior
opposition? You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to see that it has to be
either up or down.
Deciding which of the
six people making up that front row battle (yes, hookers do influence it as
well) caused the scrum to go up or down, given that it is accidental in most
cases, borders on the impossible. So if forced to make a call, one has to
Yet because it is
happening a little too often for the IRB’s liking, referees are being pushed to
eradicate it via the use of the whistle. Talk about bringing a knife to a
So they empower the
referees with some serious firepower like a penalty and yellow card, and allow
them to employ said firepower based on guesswork.
decisions based on one man’s interpretation of what might have been completely
accidental? Being punished for having a bad day at the office? It’s no wonder
scrum coaches round the world are encouraging sneaky tricks to try and milk the
Like the breakdown,
the scrum is a proper problem area in the game right now. But one gets the
feeling that the powers that be are treating the symptoms of a disease instead
of looking to cure the cause.
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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