So the Boks this weekend scored 12 million tries off the maul – so too did Western Province snatch a late win using the maul, which in a way they have become masters off. It’s all good and well and fair play to the teams and coaches who use this weapon at their disposal. If the rules allow it, then why not use it – as Jake White would rightfully argue.
But consider this debate:
In favor of the rolling maul we argue that it sucks in defenders and actually creates more space on the rugby field, with the embedded assumption that backlines are then free to exploit this space. Purists further argue that mauling is a delicate skill and part of the technical tradition of rugby union.
Those against the rolling maul argue that a basic and essential tenant of rugby is the idea that if a player carries the ball, his opponent should be allowed to tackle; or rob the ball carrier of possession. The rolling maul in other words constitutes rank obstruction.
I have come to appreciate the organisation and skill required to pull off a successful rolling maul, not to mention the player’s communication in attack and defense. It’s an exciting part of the game and it gets the crowd going. However I have a huge problem with the rolling maul as a try-scoring option seeing as a great many teams never bother doing anything else. South African teams are all guilty of this. Long gone are the days when we set up a line-out in the opposing 22 to launch a great backline move. We now prefer the rolling maul and if the maul is stopped short we will attack through multiple phases of forwards trying to barge over the line.
If I were a modern-era backline player I would request a cup of tea and a biscuit every time my captain calls for a line-out in opposition 22 territory, as I know the ball will simply not come my way. Nothing is more irritating than knowing exactly what will happen in the next scene of a movie – and the same goes for rugby, yet with so many teams today we know exactly what will happen once the ball is kicked for touch. It’s bloody irritating and how often do we see the truck and trailer not penalized and teams simply being allowed to splinter off and further obstruct the defense?
Why can the IRB not consider adopting a new rule whereby a rolling maul cannot be instigated from inside the opposition 22? In other words – keep everything as is, but only allow a maul to be formed outside of the opposition 22 to prevent teams from using this kick for touch, bulldozing bullocks?
If the sole argument FOR the rolling maul is that it creates space on the park – then let us see that space be utilized. The rolling maul in its current form is abused by teams too lazy to work on alternative forms of attack. Good teams are able to score tries even if the opposition is allowed to tackle them, as rugby was meant to be played.
If your only platform for attack is a set-piece where the opposition is not allowed a fair shot at contesting for the ball, then you are not playing rugby. You are playing anti-rugby.