SA Rugby has announced the implementation of new plans to ensure the speeding up of ball-in-action play throughout the 2021 season.
The new local rugby season kicks off this weekend with a series of preparation matches between eight provincial sides, and the national governing body says it will roll out a set of new features – including a countdown clock for kicks and a focus on speeding up set pieces from match officials – in an attempt to accelerate play to ensure more action on the field.
SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus conveyed the message to coaches and referees alike on the eve of a new season after the issues raised at the end of the recently concluded 2020-21 campaign.
‘We are certainly not blaming anyone for what happened and we know there were many mitigating factors as we tried to resurrect the local game in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic,’ said Erasmus.
‘It just wasn’t a high-performance environment. There was lack of proper training time, certain law directives which increased the penalty count and slowed play while the weather conditions were far from ideal.
‘But we’ve done our research and made a few plans that will hopefully enhance the game that people will see on their TV screens.
‘We have a big year looming and apart from hopefully delivering better rugby matches, we have to prepare our top players for Tests and entry into exciting new competitions in Europe. By creating more action on the field and less “ball out of play”, it will also help to increase the conditioning and fitness of our players.’
The first implemented change is a 10-day turnaround between matches to ensure better prepared teams and conditioned players. This was done with Covid-19 testing protocols taken into consideration.
Erasmus said teams and referees have also been asked to speed up play when it comes to taking lineouts, completing scrums and lining up kicks at goal, all of which lagged in comparison to international standards.
‘We want to see a change in mentality from our players in terms of speeding up the game,’ he said. ‘And we are working with the teams, referees and SuperSport to ensure this happens.
‘Skill errors will happen and we understand that. We also don’t want to interfere with how teams approach the game and their plans, but we know by tightening up in certain areas, it will make a big difference in the end.
‘We want to see less “ball out of play” and more action, because it will not only make for a better product, it will create better competition between teams, that will lead to better players and ultimately the Springboks will benefit.’
Photo: Gallo Images