The damage done to the image of southern hemisphere rugby by two scorelines from last weekend’s Super 14, is incalculable.
Peter Bills writes that the absurd 72-65 victory of the Chiefs over the Lions in Johannesburg plus the 50 points to 32 Bulls win over the Brumbies will have reinforced a widespread belief up in the northern hemisphere that this is candyfloss rugby in disguise.
I mean, how the hell do you explain a match of 18 tries? Well, try lousy defence and pathetic tackling for a start. In places like Cardiff, Twickenham and Dublin, they’ll be laughing themselves silly at such a try fest. Rugby diarrhoea, lads, and nothing else: certainly not a serious version of the game.
Well, you have yourselves to blame. Miss as many tackles as the Lions did at Ellis Park last Friday night and you deserve little more than jeers and jokes. At best, it was powder puff tackling; at worst, the non-existent variety.
And, hard as I find it to say, they’re right up in the northern hemisphere. When two sides tackle properly, how the hell can you end up with a scoreline like that?
Frankly, it did the game a disservice.
But having said all that, there are enormous advantages to be gleaned from the first two weekends of the southern hemisphere’s Super 14 tournament. I find the new approach of the referees like a breath of fresh air in a stale dungeon.
Refs are targeting four key areas of the game:
** Offside by players ahead of the downfield kick.
** Ensuring defending players at the line-out can challenge the ball carrier at the maul, rather than be blocked out by the line-out lifters.
** Policing the breakdown and ensuring the ball carrier, when tackled, can free up the ball.
** Trying to cut down the number of scrum collapses and re-sets.
All power to their whistles, in my book.
The attack on players sealing off the ball at the breakdown is long overdue. Players like Phil Waugh look like dinosaurs these days as they are pinged for the offence, as Waugh often was during the Stormers/Waratahs game in Cape Town on Friday night.
And for me, South African referees led the way in dragging players, kicking and screaming, to this new world with its new vistas and horizons. Marius Jonker sin-binned three Chiefs players for offences in the match at Johannesburg, which was great. Eventually, even such dumb Kiwis got the message.
No new laws are being written here. The only difference is that referees are now enforcing laws already in the statute book. We should all applaud that intent.Tweet