Law changes are giving fans a nervous “breakdown?”

Written by Stephen Smith (StevieS)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions, Super Rugby on 28 Feb 2012 at 09:00
Tagged with : , , ,

Two law changes/interpretaions have me fuming!

They are:

1. The new breakdown interpretations being applied by referees, and

2. The tackle law

Let’s deal with the breakdown first.

Maybe it’s just me, but the new focus by referees on the breakdown is ruining rugby as a spectacle. I can appreciate that the thinking was that it would speed up the game, but the opposite has now happened. The attacking team is more often than not penalised for sealing off and all the momentum is lost. This is what happened to the Sharks on Friday night. They also did themselves no favours with their naive play at the breakdown if one is totally honest.

I watched the majority of the games this past weekend and the Crusaders vs Blues was probably the standout, but the breakdown penalties did their job in ruining the games as spectacles.

Now for the tackle law.

This law was also designed to speed up play, with the tackler having to release the ball carrier once he has tackled him. That part I agree with, but the following are causing me serious headaches:

1. A player is brought to ground by the tackler and is released and then promptly gets up and carries on playing. The referee will sometimes allow play to continue. This is blatantly unfair as the tackler brought him to ground and then let him go as per the law.

2. A tackler attempts to bring a ball carrier down but succeeds in tripping him up, not actually holding him. The ‘tackled’ player is entitled to get up and run and does so and is then penalised. How is this fair when he was never held?

3. The tackle assist!!! I can’t remember which game it was, possibly the Lions vs Cheetahs, but the defending team held up the ball carrier and prevented him from going to ground, despite his best attempts. A maul we’d all say, correct? Oh no, the referee penalised the tackle assist for not releasing, this as I was applauding the defender for keeping the ball carrier off the ground and winning possession for his team.

I don’t know what the solution is, but I think the higher ups at SANZAR and the IRB should test these rules out in lower competitions before implementing them in such major competitions. Let’s hope the referees relax a little bit around the breakdowns and we see some of the running rugby we love so much.


  • A referee can award a penalty to any team at 80% of breakdown points and be able to motivate it….the laws are just to complicated at breakdown time and something needs to be done about it.

    In comes KSA….. 🙄

  • Comment 1, posted at 28.02.12 09:05:15 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • @Pokkel (Comment 1) : same with the scrums too, its a one for you.. One for them… Penalty thing at the moment…

  • Comment 2, posted at 28.02.12 09:19:48 by Franshark Reply
  • @Franshark (Comment 2) :

    I watched some old CC games on ESPN classic and the scrums were so easy. The 2 sets of props just sort of move towards each other and the ‘engage’. No stupid counting and pauses and I’m pretty sure there were less scrum resets.

  • Comment 3, posted at 28.02.12 09:23:41 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 3) : Are you talking about the Currie Cup Finals from 1990 and 1992 that they had on? I watched those and thought exactly the same thing. There wasn’t as much impact at initial contact, but then it became a test of strength. Great to watch and less reset scrums.

  • Comment 4, posted at 28.02.12 09:51:32 by StevieS Reply
  • @StevieS (Comment 4) :

    yes I was watching those. great to watch!

  • Comment 5, posted at 28.02.12 09:52:53 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 3) : @StevieS (Comment 4) : A lot safer too! No massive impact to drive the front rows’ spines out of their backsides!!

  • Comment 6, posted at 28.02.12 09:54:36 by ChrisS Reply
  • It seems they keep changing the laws to the benefit of NH, and the detriment of SH. When we won the WC with the perfect kicking game, they changed the territorial & kicking laws, when the Sharks and Bulls scrumed everyone off the park in ’07, the scrum laws changed, when NZ, AUS and SA got the 3 best fetchers in the world (arguable, but that’s my opinion) the breakdown laws changed, our fetchers adapted, and the ‘interpretation’ changed

  • Comment 7, posted at 28.02.12 10:00:02 by Die Kriek Reply

  • I just feel the referees arent using some common sense in applying the laws and are just trying to show that they know the laws when in actual fact they should let the game flow and let common sense prevail. Having said that i think the only law change that need sto be made is that the tackled player should not be allowed to play the ball at all. I think that change will result in a much easier control of the breakdown by the refs. But until then lets hope some common sense is utilised! We all know you know the rules- but nobody came to watch you ref!

  • Comment 8, posted at 28.02.12 10:02:27 by SheldonK Reply

  • @Pokkel (Comment 1) : I’m not going to comment, I don’t have the patience to type for that long on a phone.

    I will say this. don’t write articles when you are emotional and point 1 and 2 of the tackle law whinge above is contradictory. Either the ref allows play to go on or he doesn’t. Which ONE does the author have a gripe with?

    From what I understand the author would be happy to have the team in possesion seal off the ball at 40 rucks in the last 10m of a game keeping possesion away from the opposition, even if it is achieved by breaking the laws, rather than having the defending team being given a fair chance to get the ball.

  • Comment 9, posted at 28.02.12 10:28:52 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 9) :

    I’m no law guru so I won’t even attempt an article like this but this much I can tell you from a layman fan’s point of view. Whatever is going on at the moment isn’t working and it’s spoiling the game for me.

  • Comment 10, posted at 28.02.12 10:31:36 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 10) :

    or the players are as dof as I am and we don’t understand.

    Of die spelers is net Fo&^%$n moedswillig en wil nie blerrie luister nie. :mrgreen:

  • Comment 11, posted at 28.02.12 10:33:24 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Die Kriek (Comment 7) : The interpretation has never changed it has always been a case of if you are not on your feet with your legs supporting your bodyweight you can’t play the ball. It is now just being enforced and I’m happy about that.

    All these idiots who arrive at a ruck and put their hands on the ground past the player on the deck are not fetchers they are arches. That is not supporting your own bodyweight.

    brussouw is one player who almost always supports his own bodyweight when he joins a ruck. Wayyyyy back Gary Gold put a compilation together showing how well Brussouw does it when he was demonstrating this particular law.

  • Comment 12, posted at 28.02.12 10:35:57 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 9) : I wasn’t emotional KSA. I was being logical. Points 1 and 2 of the tackle section are different. In one the defending team is favoured and in the other the attacking team is favoured. Both when they shouldn’t be.

    As for your last comment no, I want a free-flowing game with neither side unfairly advantaged. I’ve done a reffing course so I know how hard it is for the refs, my point is that the current application of the laws don’t work.

  • Comment 13, posted at 28.02.12 10:38:39 by StevieS Reply
  • To me it feels as though either some referee’s just don’t understand the law, or I really don’t. The thing is when I agree with the ref for a game, the game tends to also flow better. The two best refs this weekend was the Blues/Crus game and High/Chiefs game imo

  • Comment 14, posted at 28.02.12 10:42:12 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 12) : The ref in the chiefs hihlander game was very strict with the law, but I felt that he did a very good job and made all the right calls. The game started flowing better and players started doing what the ref and the law expects them to do.

    I think being a ref is hard. That’s why I really appreciate it when they get it right!

  • Comment 15, posted at 28.02.12 10:44:38 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Pokkel (Comment 10) : And it was spoiled for me this weekend as well but I looked at it from the point of view of “Why can’t the players realise that if you go to ground over the tackled player or if you are not supporting your own bodyweight while trying to play the ball you are going to get penalised” as opposed to other people watching with the attitude of “Why is this ref so strict”

    It’s the same as the poms whinging about speed cameras being put up all over the place. I mean WTF? Then don’t f*”?en speed, it IS that simple. Same applies to the Players. Bismarck if you join the ruck from the side or play the ball while not on your feet you are going to be penalised. So Bismarck stop being as thick as a pom and realise you ARE going to get penalised.

    It’s not like this is a surprise and the referee came along with a “HA!!!! I caught you!!!!!” All the players were warned that the referees would be stricter on that this year yet they continue to transgress.

  • Comment 16, posted at 28.02.12 10:45:37 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @StevieS (Comment 13) : So how can the ref favour both the attacking and the defending team? he either favours one or the other surely.

  • Comment 17, posted at 28.02.12 10:47:06 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @StevieS (Comment 13) : The game will be free flowing if we don’t have the arches and bodies lying over the rucks.

    So the current application of the laws don’t work because the players are to thick to cotton on to “oops I got penalised the last time I did that, it must be the thing he warned us about during his pre-match talk. No can’t be. Let’s do it at the next ruck again……..oops he penalised me for it again, no it can’t be for that, I’ll try it again and see……..”

  • Comment 18, posted at 28.02.12 10:51:05 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 17) : I’m talking about different refs interpreting the same law different ways.

  • Comment 19, posted at 28.02.12 10:53:35 by StevieS Reply
  • Don’t blame the ref if the players don’t have the discipline.

    We ALL want(ed) to lynch Bryce Lawrence for NOT policing the breakdown, now SOME (should’ve put that in the heading BTW) want to have nervous breakdowns because they ARE being policed. 😕

  • Comment 20, posted at 28.02.12 10:54:02 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 18) : I agree 100% with you. Players need to wise up and play to the rules. My point is that when different refs interpret rules differently it makes it hard on the players.

  • Comment 21, posted at 28.02.12 10:54:38 by StevieS Reply
  • @Pokkel (Comment 11) : FO??EN Presies!!!!! 🙂

  • Comment 22, posted at 28.02.12 10:55:07 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @Letgo (Comment 15) : Precisely! Bismarck as an example didn’t start doing what the law allows him to do either through not being bright enough to cotton on to it or through being “moedswillig” (What IS the English word for that?)

  • Comment 23, posted at 28.02.12 10:59:53 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 12) : KSA, I completely agree with your comment (especially your point regarding arches). I’m worried that the refs will get less strict on these laws as the competition moves forward. The players will eventually get this right as long as the refs are consistent (and don’t go ‘soft’). The games will become more free-flowing as a result. We can’t expect this to happen in the first round folks!

  • Comment 24, posted at 28.02.12 11:00:16 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 23) : I have the perfect translation for you but bergshark might take offence again 😈

  • Comment 25, posted at 28.02.12 11:04:41 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @StevieS (Comment 21) : The thing is you don’t mention that anywhere in your article. Your article seems to me to be about new interpretations of the law, no mention is made about referees interpreting the laws differently from/to each other.

  • Comment 26, posted at 28.02.12 11:07:26 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @StevieS (Comment 13) : Oh and if something had ME fuming, as you mention it has you fuming in your opening line, then I consider myself being emotional. 😉

  • Comment 27, posted at 28.02.12 11:09:56 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 9) : I take that back seems I was going to comment afterall. 🙂

  • Comment 28, posted at 28.02.12 11:11:12 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 16) :

    I take issuse with the arriving player supporting his body weight and is fairly contesting for the ball ..then an opposing player comes along and knocks you off you feet or pulls the jersey towards him ..mostly from the side ..generally at that instance the player FAIRLY contesting for ball suddenly needs to let go of ball after already getting hands on it whilst within the law ..

    Its a fine line imo.

    Teams that adapt to the ref on the day interprtations will benefit the most.

  • Comment 29, posted at 28.02.12 11:18:06 by csb Reply

  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 23) :

    Stubborn or Facetious …not sure maybe both.

  • Comment 30, posted at 28.02.12 11:21:02 by csb Reply

  • @vanmartin (Comment 25) :

    😆 crossed me mind to.

  • Comment 31, posted at 28.02.12 11:22:22 by csb Reply

  • @csb (Comment 29) : The tackler can play the ball on his feet and so can the 1st arriving player, but they have to be quick because as soon as the other players arrive it becomes a ruck (provided the ball is on the ground) and then he has to stop trying to win it with his hands as not even the tackler can use his hands in the ruck.

    Here’s the thing about your scenario. By the letter of the law even if the opposing player just arrives and puts his hand on the player who is contesting the ball fairly he SHOULD let go of the ball because the ruck has been formed. (No player WILL ever arrive that cassually but by the letter of the law he could.)

  • Comment 32, posted at 28.02.12 11:32:37 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @vanmartin (Comment 25) : 😆

  • Comment 33, posted at 28.02.12 11:33:42 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @csb (Comment 30) : moedswillig means on purpose but what a single word for that is I wouldn’t know.

  • Comment 34, posted at 28.02.12 11:34:37 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 32) :

    Thanks for a very good clarification KSA.

    Thing is its not always reffed by the letter of the law …but I totally agree that if we want the breakdown sorted out then lets sort it out with strict policing.
    @KSA Shark © (Comment 34) :

    I’ll check a thesarus. 😉

  • Comment 35, posted at 28.02.12 11:39:27 by csb Reply

  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 28) : en nou kry ons jou ni pokken stil nie! 😆

  • Comment 36, posted at 28.02.12 11:39:32 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Ice (Comment 36) : 😆

    See!!! I should never have started. 🙂

  • Comment 37, posted at 28.02.12 11:42:03 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 34) : being menace..?

  • Comment 38, posted at 28.02.12 11:42:29 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Ice (Comment 38) : Ja maar dis 2 woorde. 😛

  • Comment 39, posted at 28.02.12 11:44:17 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 39) : deliberate..?

  • Comment 40, posted at 28.02.12 11:47:41 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 34) : Intentional?

  • Comment 41, posted at 28.02.12 11:53:03 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @Ice (Comment 40) :
    @Original Pierre (Comment 41) :

    Those are the 2 I’d go with. See that’s why I like this website, I can improve my 2nd language. 🙂

  • Comment 42, posted at 28.02.12 11:57:30 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 42) : and that from two fellow d.. First languagers! 😈

  • Comment 43, posted at 28.02.12 12:09:47 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Ice (Comment 40) : @Original Pierre (Comment 41) : @KSA Shark © (Comment 42) :

    Megatron :mrgreen:

  • Comment 44, posted at 28.02.12 12:12:30 by csb Reply

  • @Ice (Comment 43) : Ons staan saam. 😆

  • Comment 45, posted at 28.02.12 12:12:39 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 37) :


    I’ve been on this website too long. I knew KSA couldn’t resist this one even from his phone! 😆

  • Comment 46, posted at 28.02.12 12:14:11 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • @csb (Comment 44) : :mrgreen:

  • Comment 47, posted at 28.02.12 12:14:27 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @csb (Comment 44) : 😀

  • Comment 48, posted at 28.02.12 12:28:13 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Pokkel (Comment 46) : 😀 😳 Am I that predictable? 😉

  • Comment 49, posted at 28.02.12 13:35:12 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 49) :

    Ja Oubaas. Plus I’ve been around Sharksworld since 2008. You pick up one or two things in 4 years.

  • Comment 50, posted at 28.02.12 13:38:10 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • @Pokkel (Comment 50) : 🙂

  • Comment 51, posted at 28.02.12 13:52:32 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 9) : I think you missed the whole point of issues 1 and 2!!

    Some refs allow a tackled player to immediately get up if he isn’t held in the tackle without first placing the ball. That’s issue 1. The 2nd issue is that some refs penalise a player who has been tripped up and not tackled when he rolls, stands up and carries on playing the ball.

    Bit harsh to say whinge and that the author was emotional. Let’s try to stick to rugby and leave out pointless comments about each other.

  • Comment 52, posted at 28.02.12 16:16:10 by ChrisS Reply
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 20) : Again, think you missed the point. It’s about the inconsistency in how the breakdown and tackle are policed, not that they ARE policed!

  • Comment 53, posted at 28.02.12 16:17:44 by ChrisS Reply
  • @ChrisS (Comment 52) :
    @ChrisS (Comment 53) :

    No I think you need to read the article again. There is NO mention of the inconsistancies between referees anywhere in the article, but it does mention the changes in interpretations.

  • Comment 54, posted at 28.02.12 17:43:26 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 54) : Don’t whinge KSA! 😆

  • Comment 55, posted at 28.02.12 17:55:06 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • To me its the old adage – consistency. I can appreciate that a whole lot of people over at the iRB would be out of jobs if they couldn’t tweak the rugby rules every year but I wish they’d devote more time to ensuring that refs the world over blow a rule the same way and try their best to eliminate the subjective interpretations of the law.

    A good example is the one StevieS mentions. A ball-carrier goes to ground in what meets the defn of a tackle, he isn’t held. Your typical NZ ref will allow him to get up and continue playing without releasing the ball, whilst a guy like Kaplan will probably penalise him for not placing the ball first, getting to his feet and then playing on.

    The iRB should earn their keep by investigating interpretations like these and making clearer rulings/defn on what constitutes a tackle that requires a player to release the ball first.

    With regards to sealing, personally I really hate it when trigger happy refs ping teams for this one is situations when its clear there was no honest contest to win the ball in the first place. A major reason why players collapse over the ball or drop shoulders below hips is coz they don’t have an opponent to bind onto at the breakdown. Refs must focus hard on the element of preventing a FAIR contest by the offender’s action imho. If there’s a 90% chance the ball would have come out on the attacking team’s side, players who unintentionally seal it off shouldn’t be penalised.

  • Comment 56, posted at 28.02.12 18:12:44 by beet Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • @Ben (Comment 55) : 😀

  • Comment 57, posted at 28.02.12 18:18:55 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©

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