Reboot: Laws of re-engagement

In a new series from the SA Rugby magazine team, WADE PRETORIUS wishes for the game to return to its roots.

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During this series of ‘Rugby Reboot’, my colleagues have offered up some great ideas. Some of which have a better chance of implementation than others. Singling out Dylan Jack’s request for old-school tours is one that I would love to see reintroduced but it would probably be denied at boardroom level because it doesn’t generate enough money at the turnstiles.

Moving on, my ‘bright idea’ is not a new idea at all. Nor is it game-changing … Oh, wait it is: I’m proposing taking rugby back to the way it was intended to be played by actually enforcing the rules of the game. And yes, let’s use as much technology as possible in the process.

Rugby fans often get frustrated by football due to players falling around on the floor and surrounding the referee when a decision goes the other way. But both of those elements, especially the latter, have found their way into rugby. Players trying to coach the ref – by trying to police the breakdown or offside line – is commonplace. The men in the middle should be empowered and backed to punish offending players without fear of public outcry or potentially swaying a match. You do the crime, you face the fine.

Another bug bear of mine has been the erosion of any laws around the breakdown. Far too often players don’t enter the ruck ‘through the gate’ … it seems like World Rugby has given up on that rule. Combine that with players off their feet at the ruck, those on the ground holding on to the ball for a second or three longer than they should and then, possibly my biggest frustration, defenders not being behind the last man’s feet – it all degrades the best possible (and attacking) version of the game.

The ‘letter of the law’ is there for a reason. These infringements when taken in isolation may appear minor or even petty, but when rugby resumes post the Covid-19 pandemic, you can apply to sit with me while I point out each and every transgression … it will be a painful exercise in pointing out how far off course the laws have drifted.

In my view, World Rugby has taken to focussing on hotspots – the neck roll and hitting the ruck with the shoulder in recent times – rather than sitting back and looking at the laws and instructing referees to marshall a game according to their views in the best interests of an open game.

We also need to clear up what constitutes dangerous play worthy of a red card when it comes to players leading into tackles with a shoulder and being hit in the air when going up for a high ball. Rugby needs a 15-on-15 battle for it to be at its best.

And lastly, can we for once rule out jersey clashes during televised matches?! Horrible for the players, the spectators at the ground and impossible for fans watching at home.

It’s 2020: work it out, people.

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Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

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