Just when we all were getting nicely acquainted with the ELVs during the Super 14, the IRB had to confuse the heck out of everyone by having three different sets, and then changing them all anyway a few weeks down the line as the Vodacom Cup played with one set, the Super 14 with another, the early internationals without any at all, the later ones had some, and the Currie Cup saw them all totally different.
The Heineken Cup had one small adaptation this past season which apparently contributed to a much more flowing game, with the tackler rolling away, to the side to allow for quicker recycling of the ball. It resulted in more tries and thus it was argued, more spectator enjoyment.
2007’s Super 14 was a dismal failure in New Zealand – with the All Blacks pulled out of the first half of the tournament, not only was the competition diluted, but the New Zealand teams failed to dominate and these factors contributed led to lower spectator numbers.
Then came another Rugby World Cup – and more failure and New Zealand rugby was in crisis – on all fronts.
And so came the ELVs to make rugby more exciting and bring the fans back the game, fill the coffers of the Unions and make rugby more financially viable again. Without having the exact figures, it is not possible to say whether the introduction of the ELVs worked to bring people back, but the truth be told – for this fan at least – many of the laws did contribute to watching more enjoyable rugby.
There was also more ball in play time which mean fewer stoppages. The laws seemed to favour the attacking side and everything looked grand.
And then the IRB, in their infinite wisdom – or the fact that they can see how the Southern Hemisphere sides will dominate their northern counterparts playing a quicker style of game – promptly did an about turn.
The Currie Cup now has a new set of ELVs designed to slow the game and kill attacking rugby.
1. Lineouts – the opposition, with an allowance to have as many players as they wish, now compete and poach more ball off the attacking side.
2. The pulling down of the rolling maul has blunted another attacking option.
3. The offside line at the scrum pushed back does not give the attacking side more time to attack. It gives the defending side more space to align defensively.
4. The free kick has been removed and as such, the stoppages at penalties take more “ball-in-play” time out of the allotted game time.
In all, the defensive side now gets the advantage. Which brings us back a full circle to the first point – players rolling away in the Heineken Cup. The very laws introduced to speed up the game and create more tries has been sacrificed for old laws to slow the game down.