Long live the scrum

RIP the hit, but long live the scrum says Former WP prop Tank Lanning in his Sport24 column today, as he delves into the new scrum engagement call coming next year.

So from next year it will be a “crouch, bind, set” scrum engagement sequence, which basically eliminates the hit from the scrum.

And while some are already suggesting this to be the beginning of the end of the scrum, I would wholly disagree …

As that legendary band, Semisonic, said in the ditty “Closing time” … Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

And this is indeed a new beginning …

Implementation will begin at the start of the next season in both hemispheres and follows extensive evaluation of the sequence, which indicated the possible delivery of a more stable platform leading to fewer resets and more successful scrums.

What we have currently is a complete mess that calls for referees, under pressure to eradicate these time consuming resets, to guess. And as such, they are awarding full arm penalties that lead to points. 3 points in a tight Boks vs Blacks Test at Eden Park based on a referee guess? The situation is untenable …

So in a revision of the ‘crouch, touch, set’ engagement sequence currently being used, props will be expected to bind using their outside arm after the referee has called “bind” in the sequence, maintain the bind until the referee calls “set”. At that point, the two packs will engage.

But perhaps the most exciting initiative to go with this new engagement process, is that referees will now be instructed by the IRB to police a straight feed into the scrum from the scrumhalf. At last I say, with tears in my baby blues!

So what we have is a return to a scrum that will be a fair contest not dominated by the pack who gets the best hit, but one that combines strength with technique, and perhaps most importantly, timing.

SARU, no doubt seeing this coming, have been very sharp in implementing this at all levels below club 1st XV this season, but being involved with the UCT 2nd XV, I can see that most sides have taken this to mean the death of the scrum, and have resorted to just using it as a way to restart the game.

At schoolboy level, you have to feed the scrum as soon as the packs engage, you cannot shove more than 1.5 metres, and you have to use the ball as soon as the ball reaches the 8th man’s feet. So that really does virtually kill the scrum off as a weapon.

But under the new scrum engagement process, the one currently being used by club 2nd XV’s, you can feed the scrum when you choose, do not have to use the ball when it reaches the 8th man’s feet thus enabling you drive it up field if you have a superior scrum, and If a scrum is wheeled through more than 90 degrees, the referee must stop play and order another scrum, rather than give a free kick. And you get to keep a “mini-hit” … That is powerful.

So you can engage fairly powerfully, but not with enough force to push the scrum up or down, still using a formation to start your left or right shoulder, set up a post engage timing call to give your scrum the “Go-forward” as the ball is fed into the scrum, and keep the ball at the back for as long as you want, thus setting up a “Driving ruck” should you be powerful enough.

And with the ball coming into the scrum straight, get your timing right as a defensive scrum looking to disrupt the opposition, both in terms of a strike from the hooker, or an 8 man shove, the tighthead might actually come back into the game as a legit turnover. And we all know how golden turnover ball is in the modern game.

I dare any coach to downgrade their props to openside flanks, and locks to mere jumping beanpoles. They will suffer accordingly come scrum time …

Sure it changes, but the scrum remains a potent weapon, and long may it live!

For an explanation of engagement process in detail, CLICK HERE.


  1. Dear Tank,

    As a coach at school boy level the scrum hasn’t lost its value at all. The scrum is used as an intimidation tool, to show the opponents that your pack of forward will dominate the game in all it tight phases.

    The scrum will never loose its value in this game of ours, it will rather become call of teams that they are here to dominate.

    The General

    1. Excellent to know … Although they have definitely tried their best to do so … Thanks General

  2. Your dare almost backfired. AC has moved hooker Deon Fourie to No. 6 for the Rebels game!!

  3. Hi Tank, I’m coaching at school boy level. Being a former member of the front row (THE ONLY ROW lol !!) I still place a lot of emphasis on our scrums. We are not a traditional rugby school but this year we’ve never lost a ball on our own feed: we have in fact took a number of balls from the other packs by simply scrummaging them off the ball (within the 1½ meters).
    We’ve recently played a team that has already played 4 of the top 5 schools (in the country) in our age group. Although we’ve lost the match, the opposition coach spoke to my team afterwards. According to him, it was the first time this year that his scrum “got moered”. Lovely forwards for a front row forward to hear !!

    1. Lovely indeed! I am also coaching at club level, and find that as soon as you place some emphasis on the scrum at practice, then the guys take notice, and more importantly, take pride in how they scrum. And it can have such a huge influence on the game … Good on you sir!!

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