Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - Sanzar has sent a stern message to referees ahead of the third round of Vodacom Super Rugby - to ensure scrumhalves feed the ball correctly into the scrum.
According to the supersport.com website, Sanzar refereeing boss Lyndon Bray, while praising the positive start to the competition in terms of scrummaging, has made it clear that the referees need to be stricter on the feed to the scrum, something they didn’t do in the past weekend’s games in the competition.
Bray has fired a salvo at referees who allow incorrect feeds, saying it “belittles the contest of a scrum” and has underlined this as a key area communicated to whistle-blowers ahead of this weekend’s matches.
The Sanzar boss made the comments on the official Sanzar website superrugby.com, and was generally very happy about the way the scrums have been in the opening rounds of the competition.
“Firstly, I think the really positive aspect has been the way in which the rugby has panned out in the first two weeks. My first comment about that is the very positive endeavour being shown by the players. Largely, their work around the tackle has been up in terms of standards and compliance from previous seasons, which ultimately makes the referee's work rate a lot easier,” Bray told superrugby.com
“Overall, we've seen a positive start to scrummaging, but also with a couple of things we really need to improve on as we move forward.”
Bray said though, that the feed of the ball needed to improve across the competition.
“If you look at scrum as the area we're focused on with the new process, teams are now expected to provide stability having engaged. What that means from a dominant scrum point of view is that you almost have to take some of your weight off to provide a strong platform and stability at the scrum,” he explained.
“In return, we have a total expectation that the feeding team needs to be held accountable for a credible feed which forces the hooker to hook for the ball. If they're good enough, they can feed straight and push over the ball; Argentina does that a lot at test level.
“The key fundamental principle that we've all agreed upon is that the feeding team must be forced to hook for the ball, which allows for a fairly contested scrum.
“If we allow a halfback to feed it directly under a hooker's feet into the channel, it belittles the contest of a scrum and makes it too easy for that team to clear the ball quickly and the process really becomes irrelevant.”
The Sanzar refereeing boss said that while it was a talking point at the Super Rugby workshop pre-season, this weekend was certainly not up to standard, and that referees would not ignore this aspect any longer.
“Having agreed this with our team coaches throughout workshops around this issue, I thought some of the No 9s were very poor in their feed on the weekend. We largely ignored it, which is not good enough.
“So one of the key messages going into Round 3 is that we need to get stronger on committing the No 9s to a proper feed and forcing hookers to hook for the ball.”
On the positive side, the statistics showed the scrum contest was largely a good one.
“Having said that, when we did get good stability, we had some excellent scrum outcomes and really good contests. Chiefs v Crusaders resulted in 94 percent ball in, ball out; they were having a great contest. Waratahs and Force is traditionally a poor scrum game, but we saw 82 percent ball in, ball out which was fantastic. Brumbies v Reds saw 72 percent and Lions v Stormers 70 percent, so they are very high figures of ball out scrum completion.
“Last year we got up towards 70 percent. Our goal was 60. This year we're really pushing that we get over 70 percent. We're tracking well above 70 percent through nine games, and that's good. That's a really promising start, we've just got to maintain that.”
So expect referees to be tougher on halfbacks this weekend, and as Sanzar have made the scrum a key point in this year’s tournament, a good scrum contest can only be good for the game.