Refs to clean up the breakdown

2009-01-29 12:26
Andre Watson (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Modern rugby’s eternal problem – the breakdown – will be the centre of focus when the Super 14 kicks off on February 13.

The IRB has instructed referees to try to ensure more of a contest for the ball at the tackle through a change of emphasis on what they will be looking out for.

Andre Watson, SA Rugby’s manager of referees, has confirmed an instruction from the IRB aimed at “emphasising a fair contest for the ball.”

“What the IRB’s directive is trying to achieve is to create more of a contest for the ball at the tackle – to move away from the tendency that had developed to be more tolerant on the attacking side, allowing them to seal off the ball, to go off their feet.

“We want to see a real contest for the ball, with the first players arriving at the tackle really fighting for it,” he explained.

A subtle change will be referees not calling a ruck until it has clearly formed, allowing for a longer and fairer contest for the ball.

“I believe it will create more excitement, there will be more turnovers and we’re hoping to see quicker and cleaner ball,” he added.

Watson has been hard at work with his various panels of referees to ensure uniformity.

He called in the Springboks’ scrum “doctor” Balie Swart to give the officials an insight and feel for what happens in the frontrow and believes the IRB’s newest directives will bring about a fairer game – “which after all is all we’re asking for.”

Some of the other orders given to the arbiters should benefit South African sides, especially those aimed at removing the subtle infringements that have crept into the lineouts – such as early lifting on the opponent’s throw and stepping into or crowding the spaces.

“It’s more of a re-emphasis when it comes to the lineouts,” explained Watson, “and it also goes to wanting a fair contest. By coming down on early lifting, barging or stepping across we hope to ensure that the team throwing in the ball enjoy the advantage they’re meant to have.”

Other pointers to referees for the new season also go to areas which lead to regular complaints – proper binding and putting the ball in straight in the scrums, eradicating foul play and the aggrieved modern phenomenon of “cleaning out.”

“We want to eliminate the missiles,” said Watson in his characteristic pithy way. “We want to see players on their feet moving the obstacles. No shoulder charges and flying tackles. It’s common sense really and we just want to be stricter on it.”


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