The experimental laws that were applied in Super 14 rugby this year resulted in a marked increase in action, and an increase of 13 per cent in the number of tries scored.
Liam De Carme writes for Beeld that matches produced, on average, three minutes more action than under the “old” laws, with fewer lineouts but roughly the same number of scrums.
“The experimental laws are fantastic. The game is certainly faster and many of the changes make sense,” Mark Lawrence, the referee in last week’s Super 14 final, said on Wednesday.
The southern hemisphere’s players, who have to revert to the old laws when they play in Test matches against northern hemisphere teams from this weekend, should not find it too hard to adapt, says Lawrence.
“I have to handle a Test between Australia and France soon and I don’t think it will be hard to change (back to the old laws) because one reacts instinctively to some of the laws,” he said.
Lawrence, who was in charge when the Crusaders beat the Waratahs in the Super 14 final in Christchurch, prefers the “experimental law variations” that have been used in first-class matches in the southern hemisphere this season.
Under the experimental laws, the ball was “live” for an average of 36 minutes, compared to 33 minutes under the old laws.
“One certainly runs much more and you have to think a lot harder,” he said from a referee’s perspective.
The number of tries scored increased by 13% since the experimental laws were introduced.
There were, on average, eight per cent more mauls and rolling mauls. With free kicks replacing penalties in many instances, the number of penalties decreased from 19 to 12 per match. Free kicks increased from 12 to 15.
And with tactical kicking gaining in importance because of the changes, the number of lineouts decreased from 31 to 26, but the ELVs had no effect on the number of scrums.
Lawrence feels it is important that innovations should be introduced into the game from time to time.
“I know the experimental laws have resulted in many debates but I feel they’re good for the development of the game,” he said.
Players from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand will have to readjust to the laws that were applied during the 2007 World Cup tournament when they face teams from the northern hemisphere during the next few weeks.
Their visitors have been playing under the old laws all along and won’t have to readjust.
And when the Tri-Nations series starts in July, it will be back to the experimental laws for the Sanzar teams.