Hansen calls for maul change

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says the rules governing the rolling maul need to change to ensure a fair contest, reports JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.

New Zealand beat Argentina 39-18 in Christchurch last week. While they were clinical in most areas of the game, their lineout defence was not at its best. Two well-executed rolling mauls by Argentina led to two soft tries.

Some have suggested that this bodes badly for their next clash with the Springboks at Ellis Park. Even without veteran lock Victor Matfield, who is currently nursing a hamstring injury, the Boks are a formidable set-piece unit and will certainly look to target the All Blacks in that area.

On Thursday at a media gathering in Johannesburg, Hansen admitted that the All Blacks defence could have been better in Christchurch. He said the Boks will pose a challenge at the lineout, and that the visitors will need to lift their game.

While nothing can be done to change the laws before the coming contest, Hansen feels action needs to be taken sooner rather than later.

‘Is that the kind of game that people want to watch?’ he said. ‘Sure, there’s an art to the maul, both in terms of setting it and defending against it. And we got it wrong last week when we went too high and were too thin on defence [against the Pumas maul].

‘But what concerns me is that it's not an even contest. If you look at the charter, it says there needs to be an even contest [in all areas of the game]. But at the moment, the maul is not contestable.

‘I know this is probably the wrong thing to say, and will make headlines. But it's something that every team is taking advantage of on attack, and that includes ourselves.’

Hansen offered up a solution to the problem.

‘I think the defending team should be allowed to sack the maul. I realise this is a complex part of the game. It’s a good part of the game, but there has to be a contest.

‘Unless there is a change, attacking teams will continue to kick penalties to touch and set up the lineout, because they know their chances of scoring from the rolling maul are good.’

While Hansen’s words may lead to an eventual change in the laws, they will have no impact on the coming game.

‘I’m sure the Boks might feel we are vulnerable in that area,’ he said.

All Blacks hooker Dane Coles agreed that the hosts will be difficult to match at the set pieces this Saturday.

‘The Bok scrum was awesome against Australia last week,’ Coles said. ‘They were pretty dominant for the first 60 minutes.

‘Victor [Matfield] is a massive loss for them [at the lineout], but they do have some young boys who are doing well.’

Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli