Make a rule … And police it!

Matthew Rosslee

A game of rugby starts with a kick-off. Most players will be conscious of the laws of the game and will give themselves a meter to ensure they’re not blown for offside. Some players play to the letter and are in line with the kicker as the ball is kicked. And then you get the unruly Mohammed Aamir type who are a meter in front of the kicker.

So let’s assume there is a 2m variance depending on who the player is or what the situation is. Some referees may blow the player for being offside and some may not – for fear of being pedantic or otherwise. But either way, in this case, the referee has a role in up to 50% of the variance. The player is responsible for the 50% behind the line …

This theme continues right through the game in varying levels, and in many facets of the game the referee’s decisions are allowed to be too subjective.

The rules need to be made clearer in terms of right and wrong and blown to the letter. Which is what is attempted by the IRB, but it begins to fray through referees blowing the game how they feel the game should be played.

An example – a scrum-half skies a box kick. All the forwards are in the 10m radius as they were in the ruck. The opposing team play the ball without any of the ‘offside’ players impeding the fielder of the ball. Some referees will blow a penalty for players being within a 10m radius, some won’t as the players were deemed to have ‘no influence’ on the ensuing play. Subjective?

The pillar at a ruck last season had a completely different offside line to the rest of the defensive line. I’m pleased to see it being policed better this year – but why was it ever allowed to creep in? I think it crept in because some referees would fear it as being seen as pedantic. Or they harboured ambitions of letting the game flow like Jonathan Kaplan!

Not all rugby matches are supposed to flow.  If one side is intent on spoiling play at the breakdown by persistently pushing the offside line then it is them that should be punished and carded until they see the light. And the referee should then be commended for blowing the game strictly, albeit that the game wasn’t easy on the eye.

But why should a side have a chance of winning if this is their chosen tactic? Why should a side playing better spirited and structure rugby on the day have a chance of losing?

Because they are allowed to!

In all fairness the Springboks deserved to win their World Cup semi, as did the French in the final.  Perhaps both sides would have won had the referee blown the game correctly, as the Aussies and All Blacks may have been forced to change their game plans. But they didn’t and for that reason we are left infuriated.

For what it’s worth … My advice to the refereeing panel – make the laws clear and make them fair. Don’t try and make it so that one side has more of an attacking advantage or vice versa – Like this law that if a player is held up in a tackle the tackler must release if the attacker can get a knee to the ground.

Make a rule and police it – You say the scrum half must feed the ball straight into the scrum and may not feed the ball in below the chest of the loosehead prop. Anything deviating from that should be penalized!

Another example – the yellow card was introduced to prevent professional fouls. If a flank tries to hold the opposing flank so that he can’t break away from the scrum it should be a yellow card. Every single time!

Take out the ‘no influence’ excuse for not blowing a player as it makes players think that it is acceptable to transgress the laws.

Ultimately it is the players who must decide the spirit in which the game is played – and not the referee.

Matthew currently plays inside-centre for Griquas, prior to that he played for Western Province and the UCT Ikey Tigers in the Varsity Cup. Follow him on Twitter – @MattRosslee

Mathew Rosslee in full flow ...

Mattew tells us that the above missive was inspired by a Tweet from FRG founder Tank Lanning, who was asked to write a column on refereeing by Sports Illustrated. Below the first few paragraphs of said column from Tank … For the full version get hold of the May issue of the mag …

“Tank Lanning
I have never been one to worry too much about the referee, probably because as a player I was too bloody far behind play to notice, but I was also told very early on in my playing career not to sweat too much about refereeing decisions on the field because no matter what you do, the decision is not going to change … EVER.
Hence my irritation with Fourie du Preez when he pulls the airplane controller arm moves at the ref instead of digging the ball out the ruck … And hence the irritation of my mates when I reach for a beer from the coolerbox instead of throwing one at the TV after a poor refereeing call …
Not even Bryce Lawrence’s performance at the Rugby World Cup could stop me from enjoying my trip to Stein Lager land … But this has changed recently …”

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  1. “A game of rugby starts with a kick off. Most players will be conscious of the laws of the game…..” (really – a handful maybe). Mathew, it is at the kick off where the very first law is broken 99% of the time – the person kicking off is anything between 1 -2m over the half way line when his boot makes contact with the ball. The very next law which is broken (99% of the time) is at the first scrum when the 9 puts the ball in under his props feet.

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