Not an ideal title for an article appearing
on Fin24, but this is no rant from some socialist freak demanding higher wages
in a shrinking economy. It is more of a plea from a flat-eared ex-prop on
behalf of those that would like to see the scrum return as a fair contest.
One of my favourite moments of the first
weekend of Super Rugby was watching an early scrum in the Blues v Chiefs game.
It was perfectly set, the ball had for once been put in straight, and it was all
very even. In fact, it was a pretty sublime moment as the ball simply lay there
like a piece of tempting, yet forbidden, fruit.
Until Chiefs hooker Hika Elliot, no doubt
feeling the pressure to win the ball on their own feed, made the call to
strike! Suddenly it was 8 men vs 7 given that Elliot no longer had both feet
back, and the Chiefs scrum crumbled, with the Blues getting the golden
Fair contest? 100%. How often does it
happen? Once in a 7-game weekend!
Not only are the days of the hooker
striking on opposition ball gone, but the days of striking on your own ball are
now also seemingly numbered. With scrums being set so low, and with so much
power being generated, packs can no longer afford to have the hooker strike.
The result being that a skew feed is almost a necessity in order to win your
own scrum ball.
Scrum coaches around the world, these days
robbed of the big initial hit used to gain early scrum ascendancy, bemoaned the
strict policing of the straight scrum feed that we saw at the beginning of last
year, saying that it negated the advantage that should be afforded to the side
feeding the scrum.
Given the safety requirements, and under
pressure to rid the game of multiple scrum resets, the game’s governing body
have given in. Hence referees not policing the scrum feed like they were
implored to do last year, and hence the plethora of pesky skew scrum feeds
As a scrum coach myself, I am well aware of
the need to win one’s own ball, and can understand where these guys are coming
from. But as an observer of the game, I think we have perhaps caved in a little
early on this, and thus robbed the game of a fair contest.
Yes, the side awarded the scrum feed, much
like the team awarded the lineout feed, deserve some sort of advantage. But you
also want the side competing for the ball in these two primary phases of the
game, to have a chance of stealing it. Especially in a game dominated by such
structured and organised defences. Turnover ball gives sides a shot a less
So bring back the straight feed I say. The
side feeding the scrum can then either set a little higher so as to allow their
hooker to strike, but then be susceptible to a big 8-man shove from the
opposition. Or remain low and not go for the strike (something the Lions and
'Tahs do so well), but then be susceptible to the opposition hooker striking for
the ball if they can hold the pressure.
The key to this working though, is for
referees to allow the scrumhalf feeding the scrum to do so on their own time. Keep
the “Yes 9” safety signal, but
then do not put pressure on the scrummie to feed the ball immediately. Scrumming is about power and technique, but primarily it is about
timing. Allowing the side with the put in to control the timing of the feed
gives them a significant (and fair) advantage in that they get to time their
shove with the feed of the ball using the hooker’s tap and an internal call.
Yet the straight feed keeps it a fair
contest. Hell it would be nice to see a defending pack go for the strike rather
than the 8-man shove that we see from every scrum these days!
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.
Disclaimer: 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.