The talk prior to the start of the Super 14 is the breakdown, and after all is said and done, from what I have seen I believe we are moving in the right direction.
I think I want to start off with the fact that the ‘new’ laws at the breakdown are in fact, not new at all, but has been around for many a year now.
What has changed is the referee’s applying (in my view) these laws correctly for the first time.
Let’s cover the law itself first, or what has changed.
Now apart from quoting it verbatim the change from the referee’s point of view is that they will concentrate a lot more on the ‘Tackler’ than the ‘Tackled Player’ as they have been in the past. The same laws still apply, but there will now be little leniency showed to the ‘Tackler’ which in the past has been largely ignored.
So what does the law say?
We all basically know this but it says;
• In a tackle situation the ‘Tackled Player’ must be allowed to place the ball (in any direction). This he must do immediately.
• The ‘Tackler’ must first release the ‘Tackled Player’ before he is allowed to play the ball.
• The ‘Tackler’ must be on his feet before he is allowed to play the ball.
That is the short of it. Obviously not forgetting the other laws that goes with this like rolling away in the tackle, entering through the gate, no hands once a ruck has formed and no side entry.
What has changed now however from how this law was applied in the past, is that the referee’s will keep a very close eye on the tackler, and ensure that there is ‘daylight’ between him and the tackled player, before he is allowed to attack or play the ball. This will be the case even if the ‘Tackler’ never goes to ground but stay on his feet – he has to ‘release’ the tackler first before he is allowed to play the ball.
This is logical though, and frankly I am surprised it has taken so long to get the thieving, cheating bastards out of the game (read fetchers).
Just consider the actions when a tackle takes place…
Player A tackles player B, now the law states that player B has a right to place the ball (before anything else happens), however, since player A perfected their techniques in sliding over players never letting go of his arms, body or ball player B was never allowed to do what the law permits him to do.
Result, player A gets rewarded (penalty for player B hanging onto the ball) although it is in direct contravention of the law itself.
Fact is, fetchers never ever ‘released’ the tackled player as is required by law, which would have allowed him to place the ball.
The lawmakers also believe that this new law will allow for players to enter the ruck at a higher angle because there is no fetcher sliding over or lying on the tackled player – he has to completely release the player, get to his feet (if not already on it) and then play the ball. Support players will then be entering the ruck with have a higher shoulder over hips entry point.
Another positive thing about these law changes is that we will see the counter ruck make a comeback.
The tackle area will become a huge collision area again where players who stay on their feet will be rewarded and where quicker ruck ball will be the name of the game.
In many ways a lot of guys think South Africa will suffer, and yes we are not the best at quick recycling in this area but when it comes to big collisions and counter rucking, we could, and should be able to dominate this area provided our players learn to stay on their feet.
The result of the law change for me is simple.
We will see more quick ruck ball resulting in a quicker, more exciting game or brand of rugby as well as players now being forced to stay on their feet. However, this area will also become a haven for the guys who like the physical stuff
For once the laws are applied correctly, and for once we are moving in the right direction.
It is best summed up by Schalk Burger himself following Friday night’s game against the Sharks, where the Sharks dominated the tackled area in the first half and won a couple of balls through counter rucking with the Stormers pinned quite a bit.
Schalk said; “It was impossible to steal a ball tonight”, and rightly so – the idea of the game of union was always a fair contest for the ball, not thieving.
All that is left now, is to bring back rucking to get rid of players lying on the wrong side of the ruck…