Telling the scrumhalf when to feed the scrum is a bit like telling the hooker where and when to throw the ball into the lineout says Grunt editor and self-proclaimed scrum guru Tank Lanning in his Sport24 column.
The new scrum call has not completely eradicated resets, but there certainly seem to be far fewer. We still see some properly strange/inept penalties based on binds and collapsing, but I think that will always be the case given the subjective interpretation of the laws by different referees. The straight feed from the scrumhalf makes it a fairer contest and keeps packs higher as hookers now have to actually hook, which allows the opposition the chance to do the same – hence the previously seldom seen tighthead making a reappearance. It is without doubt a safer place for front rows given the reduced hit and pre bind (my neck injury came from the packs not engaging at the same time and my head smashing into the opposition thigh), so all in all, I like the look of the new scrum.
My biggest concern is this “Yes 9” call from the ref that signals to the scrumhalf that the ball must be put in. Apart from robbing the attacking side of the element of surprise, are we not meant to be absolving the referee of some of the responsibilities around the scrum?
The new engagement process and straight feed sees a return to the good old days when scrumming was about power, strength and technique, but also timing. Hence the hooker tapping the loosehead’s back when he was ready for the ball to come in. Part of the technique, and something we practiced for hours using various calls, was to get the little shove from all but the hooker, who’s job is obviously to hook the ball back, timed to happen just as the ball was fed into the scrum.
Now it is the ref who is calling the scrum feed with this “Yes 9” call, and that is why we see the scrumhalf tapping the hooker’s arm just before the scrum feed, so at least he knows when the ball is coming in, and can strike for it.
But in making it the ref’s call as to when the scrum is fed, there are two important ramifications. One – the attacking side loses the element of surprise as they no longer decide the timing of the feed, and two – it gives the opposition an unfair advantage as they know exactly when the ball is going to be fed into the scrum, and with 8 men who can shove, as opposed to the other side’s 7, they will have more power.
It is a bit like telling the hooker where and when to throw the ball into the lineout.
Teams earn the right to feed the scrum and lineout, and while you want the opposition to be able to contest the ball, there has to be some advantage in earning that right.
Yes the referee probably has to make a call as to whether the scrum is stable enough, but let’s move away from the referee deciding exactly when the ball should go in …
One man who will not have to worry about the scrum feed at Newlands on Saturday is professional Bok bag carrier, Lourens Adriaanse, who again misses out on even a spot on the bench. Tighthead props are scarce, and life after Jannie du Plessis looks uncertain at best. Yes Adriaanse is gaining valuable experience by spending time with the Boks, but against a weak Australian scrum, in South Africa, would it not have been a perfect opportunity to have a look at him in a Test environment? Instead French based Gurthro Steenkamp gets yet another trot off the wood, despite us having loosehead props growing on trees here in SA.
Bold call to put Bismarck du Plessis on the bench. He is probably the best player in the world right now. Rotation works for some teams and players, but not others. Heyneke Meyer has got a lot right recently … Let’s hope this is another good call from the coach. Crouch, bind, engage …