Plenty of questions about early NMB try

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 29 Feb 2016 at 11:38
Tagged with : , , , ,

I’m coming close to breaking my own rule about referees here, but I wanted to point out some rather worrying inconsistencies in the way the new maul “interpretation” was applied in PE this weekend. While it may seem a little petty to complain about a Kings try, when the Sharks scored six in return, all we really ask here is for consistency from the match officials and I genuinely don’t feel we got that on Saturday.

The Kings scored a try through Chris Cloete, off the back of a lineout drive in the eighth minute of the game. The build-up was interesting; Cobus Reinach had been penalised inside the Kings half, after he retaliated to a late tackle from Cloete with a grab around the neck. The Kings kicked for touch and set a lineout just outside the Sharks 22. When the ball became unplayable from the resulting maul, Etienne Oosthuizen was penalised (the ref does not say what for) and the Kings again set up a lineout, this time just 5 metres out. A clean take from Steven Sykes saw the ball transferred to Cloete, who was eventually driven over.

Now, there are major issues here in terms of clarity and communication of the decisions that were made, for one thing. If we look at the circumstances surrounding the first maul (where Oosthuizen was blown) it appeared as though the Sharks lock had legitimately joined from behind, worked his way through to the ball carrier and tackled him to ground. Oosthuizen continued to compete for the ball, believing that it had not yet touched the ground. A replay shows that he was wrong and had, in fact, played the ball off his feet, making that second penalty legitimate. No explanation was given by Jaco van Heerden at the time, though and I had to watch a few times in slow-mo to figure out what the ref was thinking.

The commentators then pointed out another, far clearer transgression, one that was blatant and obvious enough that it should have been spotted. Martin Ferreira, when carrying the ball at the back of the maul, was “passed” by two of his own players; both Steven Sykes and Schalk Ferreira joined the ruck behind him and then “swam” forward past the ball carrier. SANZAAR’s clear directive in 2016 is that this is illegal and that the ball has to be transferred (i.e. passed) back through the maul, it cannot be carried back in this way.

A penalty to the Sharks should have ensued. Instead the Kings were awarded another penalty, another lineout and (surprisingly enough) did exactly the same thing at the very next maul. On this occasion, Cloete was passed by both Martin Ferreira and Vleis Engelbrecht, who joined behind him and then swam past him. Schalk Ferreira appeared to join the maul ahead of the ball carrier (i.e. from the side) and there also appeared to be a decent call for truck and trailer slightly before as the maul splintered, with Ferreira and Thembelani Bholi breaking away and obstructing players ahead of the main maul.

It was again the poor and confusing communication from van Heerden that really irked. He appeared to award the try, before going upstairs later to check. The commentators both called out the offences in the build-up and van Heerden then asked TMO Marius Jonker to specifically check what happened “leading up to the try”. Reverse angle footage clearly showed the maul break up and the truck and trailer offence, while the illegal movement of the ball carrier could be seen from normal footage, even at regular viewing speed.

Jonker seemingly ignored all of this, believing he had spotted an act of foul play after the ball was grounded. He instructed van Heerden to award the try, but to then penalise Martin Ferreira afterwards for joining with a swinging arm. A reasonably minor transgression and one hardly worthy of sanction – by why then ignore two other far clearer transgressions from the Kings BEFORE Cloete went to ground with the ball?

Jonker was called into action to adjudicate a similar incident later in the game, with the Sharks this time the team in possession. He seemed to do a far more thorough job this time, correctly finding obstruction in the Sharks’ play and thus reversing van Heeerden’s somewhat premature decision to award a try to Marcell Coetzee. Ultimately, it mattered little in the final analysis, but again one wonders why there is so little consistency?


  • Yes,both commentators kept saying truck-and-trailer whilst the play was being reviewed.then the tmo says its a try and they just keep quiet about it.just with re: to the swinging arm.another cheap shot and something i would like to see given a red need for that in rugby.

  • Comment 1, posted at 29.02.16 11:45:48 by 50shadesofshark Reply
  • Have I mentioned that I hate the rolling maul? There is just too much to keep track of and ultimately the laws still seem open to vastly different interpretations. I didn’t catch all the games but did anyone see a team actually passing the ball to the back instead of swimming? It happens so fast that I struggled to differentiate in most cases.

  • Comment 2, posted at 29.02.16 11:45:56 by vanmartin Reply
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  • Since our game against the Bulls last year, I haven’t been much of a Jaco van Heerden fan, and this weekend he once again showed why. He is just plain poor, inconsistent and seemed out of his depth throughout the match.

  • Comment 3, posted at 29.02.16 11:52:07 by Another Nick Reply

    Another Nick
  • @vanmartin (Comment 2) : agree that you are going to battle to spot most of these transgressions in real time.

    Also doesn’t help that the teams were given less than a week’s notice about this

  • Comment 4, posted at 29.02.16 11:52:08 by robdylan Reply
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  • The other contentious issue here was the foul play that was picked up by the TV ref that occurred prior to the ref actually awarding the try yet the try was allowed to stand.

  • Comment 5, posted at 29.02.16 11:52:18 by byron Reply

  • @byron (Comment 6) : not sure exactly when the foul play was committed in relation to try being awarded,but shouldn’t foul play cancel out the try?

  • Comment 6, posted at 29.02.16 11:57:25 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • @byron (Comment 5) : @50shadesofshark (Comment 6) : I wouldn’t have been terribly upset if the foul play wasn’t penalised, it didn’t look that dangerous (in my opinon anyway) but I can’t remember ever seeing a penalty being awarded immediately after a try or haven’t I been paying attention?

  • Comment 7, posted at 29.02.16 12:01:13 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @byron (Comment 5) : @50shadesofshark (Comment 6) : what the ref did was, in fact, legal. Foul play after a try is scored does not rule the try out.

  • Comment 8, posted at 29.02.16 12:03:50 by robdylan Reply
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  • @vanmartin (Comment 7) : it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a penalty awarded to the defending team just after a try. More common to see the attacking team given a penalty after the try. Natal v NTvl in 1990 CC final….

  • Comment 9, posted at 29.02.16 12:04:39 by robdylan Reply
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  • I genuinely don’t mind too much that the try was given – but then Marcell’s one should also have been given. Just be consistent.

  • Comment 10, posted at 29.02.16 12:05:10 by robdylan Reply
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  • @vanmartin (Comment 8) : 1990 final after natal try,northerns centre was judged by ref to have come crashing in on watson.penalty from halfway line.stransky kicked it 15-12 became 18-12.

  • Comment 11, posted at 29.02.16 12:06:14 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • I have to agree that after watching the replay both the Kings try and Coetzee’s try were the exact same yet only 1 was penalised. Perhaps it was the ref making up for his previous error. Both tries should have been disallowed in terms of the new rule as players bound in front of the ball carrier without the ball being passed back. So the ref was 50% right in terms of both tries.

  • Comment 12, posted at 29.02.16 12:06:22 by SheldonK Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 10) :yes,which is why i thought the try should have been disallowed due to foul play.

  • Comment 13, posted at 29.02.16 12:07:40 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • @SheldonK (Comment 13) : but he was wrong on both counts for first awarding the tries and then going to the tmo for review.

  • Comment 14, posted at 29.02.16 12:09:26 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • @50shadesofshark (Comment 14) : I don’t want to be overly pedantic about that point…. would prefer the “right” call to be made. But yes, it irritated me that he awarded the try (n both instances) without checking, It’s almost like he only saw the issues on the big screen afterwards and then decided to call the TMO

  • Comment 15, posted at 29.02.16 12:13:48 by robdylan Reply
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  • @50shadesofshark (Comment 14) : He got Coetzee’s try 100% correct. He awarded it but wasnt sure so checked with TMO, nothing wrong with that in terms of the rules. The Kings try he shouldnt have awarded but being early in the game i think thats perhaps why they got away with it.

  • Comment 16, posted at 29.02.16 12:13:51 by SheldonK Reply

  • That ref is the worst ref ever….nailed us last year when we played the Bulls. I for one have no respect for him and think he is a shit ref. I get seriously worried whenever he refs. Let me put it this way, had he reffed the Bulls Stormers game in CT the Bulls would have won.

  • Comment 17, posted at 29.02.16 12:15:34 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 9) : @50shadesofshark (Comment 11) : Shot!

  • Comment 18, posted at 29.02.16 12:17:05 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @GreatSharksays (Comment 17) : I’m actually more annoyed with Jonker. As the TMO, he had all the evidence in front of him. It feels like van Heerden actually saw the issues and tried to specifically guide Jonker towards them. Jonker just completely ignored it all.

    Van Heerden did have a very strange game, though. He seems to think very slowly, often blowing the whistle several seconds after an infringement. His reffing of the breakdown was a complete lottery to me.

  • Comment 19, posted at 29.02.16 12:17:33 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 8) : I agree there – I felt that it occurred before the try was awarded and the tmo got it wrong

  • Comment 20, posted at 29.02.16 12:20:00 by byron Reply

  • @SheldonK (Comment 17) : just seems like had procedure wrong to first award a try and then ask for tmo review.wait and ask tmo if there is any reason not to award the try .

  • Comment 21, posted at 29.02.16 12:21:00 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • @byron (Comment 20) : before it was awarded or before it was scored? I think it’s an important distinction

  • Comment 22, posted at 29.02.16 12:21:10 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 22) : A try is only scored when it is awarded đŸ˜‰

  • Comment 23, posted at 29.02.16 12:22:14 by byron Reply

  • @50shadesofshark (Comment 21) : Ive seen it a number of times where a ref awards a try and then has doubts or gets a query from his assistant and then checks TMO. In terms oft he rules thats perfectly acceptable. Id rather he check if has subsequent doubts than just leave it.

  • Comment 24, posted at 29.02.16 12:24:24 by SheldonK Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 19) : The breakdown terminology had me very confused. I understand what the phrase ‘previous ruck’ implies but in the context of one breakdown event I’m just not sure how that applies. I got the feeling that van Heerden sees multiple rucks occuring at one breakdown event, which is probably a possibility, but where one ruck ends and the next one starts has me stumped.

  • Comment 25, posted at 29.02.16 12:31:20 by vanmartin Reply
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  • The law itself is simple enough.

    The ‘ripper’ does not need to transfer the ball back, but he is not allowed to detach from his original bind (usually to the catcher) and work his way back – that is what they are trying to avoid.

    Two other things vital is that you are not allowed to bind in front of the ball carrier, you must bind onto the last guy (hind-most feet). Once bound, you are also not allowed to swim past the ball carrier.

  • Comment 26, posted at 29.02.16 12:33:48 by MornĂ© Reply
  • @SheldonK (Comment 25) : well,usually there is a discussion between ref and touch judge.if there is still doubt,tmo is asked.rather err on the safe side by first asking the tmo before awarding or disallowing a try.

  • Comment 27, posted at 29.02.16 12:34:35 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • “Sharks lock had legitimately joined from behind, worked his way through to the ball carrier and tackled him to ground. ”

    Oh and you are not allowed to tackle a guy in a maul.

  • Comment 28, posted at 29.02.16 12:35:01 by MornĂ© Reply
  • @MornĂ© (Comment 26) : Just a query (had the same query with a ref mate on sat)…in order for the ball to get to the back of a maul it has to be passed back as the ripper cannot detach and also players cannot bind ahead of the ball carrier….is that a correct assumption?

  • Comment 29, posted at 29.02.16 12:37:08 by SheldonK Reply

  • @MornĂ© (Comment 26) : Without going into specifics, do you:
    1. have a feeling on how many teams executed this correctly
    2. have any opinion on how well it was officiated in the first round
    3. think it’s a particularly difficult law to ‘get right’ from the ref’s point of view

    Feel free to answer what you feel comfortable with.

  • Comment 30, posted at 29.02.16 12:37:39 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @SheldonK (Comment 29) :

    Correct, he must transfer it (pass it) to the guy behind him. Again he is not forced to, the ball can stay in the middle of the maul.

  • Comment 31, posted at 29.02.16 12:38:18 by MornĂ© Reply
  • @MornĂ© (Comment 27) : sounds simple enough. if tmo’s and touch judges would keep those points in mind,it shouldn’t be that difficult,right?

  • Comment 32, posted at 29.02.16 12:38:35 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • @vanmartin (Comment 25) : You’re not the only one stumped. Surely if you counterruck over the ball everything behind the ball is offside or out of play so for example the tackler is allowed to remain where he was but cant play the ball. He is no longer part of the ball and scrumhalf can then come in and play the ball.

  • Comment 33, posted at 29.02.16 12:40:12 by byron Reply

  • @50shadesofshark (Comment 27) : I really think we nitt picking…at the end of the day he got the Coetzee decision right and the Kings one wrong.

  • Comment 34, posted at 29.02.16 12:40:49 by SheldonK Reply

  • @vanmartin (Comment 30) :

    I only saw three maul tries and only one was legal.

    I think the refs will have a very tough time officiating this as the mechanics of a maul will mean that even if a guy joined from the back, he will end up in front of the ball carrier through the different points of pressure and release as a maul moves.

    IMO they should only focus on the ripper clearly detaching and/or allowing support players to bind in front of him.

  • Comment 35, posted at 29.02.16 12:41:19 by MornĂ© Reply
  • @MornĂ© (Comment 28) : Even if he’s the ball carrier?

    So basically your options to defend a rolling maul is to effectively counter-maul or work your way legally to the ball carrier and try to rip the ball.

  • Comment 36, posted at 29.02.16 12:41:35 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @MornĂ© (Comment 35) : Thanks!

  • Comment 37, posted at 29.02.16 12:43:23 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @MornĂ© (Comment 29) : can you physically overpower him to the ground?think that is what happened.isn’t that what usually happens when a player works his way through a maul and gets hold of the ball-carrier?he either ties up the ball-carrier,rips it,or overpowers him to the ground.

  • Comment 38, posted at 29.02.16 12:44:04 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • @byron (Comment 33) :

    Difficulty with rucks is when one is formed (players on feet over ball) and when it is finished (no players on feet and bound over the ball).

    Too often a guy is cleaned off a ruck with no one left standing and bound over the ball and refs continue to play ‘ruck’ laws.

  • Comment 39, posted at 29.02.16 12:44:54 by MornĂ© Reply
  • @vanmartin (Comment 36) :

    Yes even the ball carrier – you may not do anything to deliberately collapse a maul. Stop it moving (use it law) or rip the ball from the carrier.

  • Comment 40, posted at 29.02.16 12:46:22 by MornĂ© Reply
  • @50shadesofshark (Comment 38) :

    If he pulled him to ground it was illegal, didn’t see it so can’t comment for sure.

  • Comment 41, posted at 29.02.16 12:47:08 by MornĂ© Reply
  • @MornĂ© (Comment 40) : I can’t believe I’m only learning this today. Always thought the ball carrier was fair game. Mind blown đŸ˜¯

  • Comment 42, posted at 29.02.16 12:48:10 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @vanmartin (Comment 42) :

    Sacking is legal, happens before maul is legally formed (jumper landing and immediately pulled down to ground).

  • Comment 43, posted at 29.02.16 12:49:37 by MornĂ© Reply
  • @MornĂ© (Comment 31) : I think where teams could get clever is where team mates bind next to him and then further team mates bind bind them etc..almost creating 2 pillars with the ball carrier in the middle

  • Comment 44, posted at 29.02.16 12:49:57 by SheldonK Reply

  • @MornĂ© (Comment 40) : Why then does a maul that happens when a player is held up in a tackle not result in a penalty to the attacking team when that player is taken to ground after the maul call?

  • Comment 45, posted at 29.02.16 12:51:31 by Die Kriek Reply

  • @MornĂ© (Comment 39) : Okay, that I think explains his ‘previous ruck’ calls at least.

  • Comment 46, posted at 29.02.16 12:51:55 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @Die Kriek (Comment 45) : If the attacking team by their actions takes the maul to ground there is no penalty. So even in a tackle maul situation the defending team cannot by their actions take the maul to ground or a penalty will result.

  • Comment 47, posted at 29.02.16 12:56:53 by SheldonK Reply

  • @SheldonK (Comment 47) : But that is exactly what happens. Defending team holds a player up until a maul is called, then takes him to ground and tries to keep the ball in. Result – scrum to the defending team

  • Comment 48, posted at 29.02.16 12:59:36 by Die Kriek Reply

  • @MornĂ© (Comment 41) : issue here my be my description of what happened. Wouldn’t say Oosthuizen collapsed the maul or anything, but it looked like a legitimate competition for the ball. His mistake was not letting go once the ball had gone to ground, though.

    Kings’ offences were before that even happened, though.

  • Comment 49, posted at 29.02.16 13:01:29 by robdylan Reply
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  • @SheldonK (Comment 49) : defensive maul can drive the attacking maul back and by the momentum of the drive take them to the gound.that is not a tackle.

  • Comment 50, posted at 29.02.16 13:03:42 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • @Die Kriek (Comment 45) :

    It should, but what also happens is a maul goes to ground (momentum) without being deliberately pulled down by a player. Refs are generally more lenient when a tackle situation becomes a maul because the defending team first tries to hold the tackled player and whole movement up, not take it to ground (then it becomes a ruck).

  • Comment 51, posted at 29.02.16 13:04:20 by MornĂ© Reply
  • @50shadesofshark (Comment 50) : Yes if going backwards…generally the maul goes forward and then to ground which results in the penalty etc. But yes if defending side take them backwards and to ground that is fine.

  • Comment 52, posted at 29.02.16 13:08:01 by SheldonK Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 49) : At the end of the day its poor communication by the ref. If its a maul you can hold onto the ball as long as you like after a collapse …. if the ball touches the ground its a ruck. A loud call by the ref to indicate this and all problems go away.

  • Comment 53, posted at 29.02.16 13:09:32 by byron Reply

  • @byron (Comment 55) : no cannot keep possession for as long as you like in a maul.thats why the use it or lose it law was introduced.need to be moving forward.get one chance to regain momentum from static maul.

  • Comment 54, posted at 29.02.16 13:17:51 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • @byron (Comment 53) : you could tell that hte Sharks (Oosthuizen and Beast in particular) thought that they had successfully competed for the ball in the maul and prevented the Kings from clearing it. Beast tried to get clarification as to why it was not a scrum. As you said, the ref never called “it’s a ruck” or anything to that effect.

  • Comment 55, posted at 29.02.16 13:20:53 by robdylan Reply
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  • (c) Scrum following maul. The ball is thrown in by the team not in possession when the maul began. If the referee cannot decide which team had possession, the team moving forward before the maul stopped throws in the ball. If neither team was moving forward, the attacking team throws in the ball.
    When a maul remains stationary or has stopped moving forward for more than 5 seconds, but the ball is being moved and the referee can see it, a reasonable time is allowed for the ball to emerge. If it does not emerge within a reasonable time, a scrum is ordered.
    When a maul has stopped moving forward it may start moving forward again providing it does so within 5 seconds. If the maul stops moving forward a second time and if the ball is being moved and the referee can see it, a reasonable time is allowed for the ball to emerge. If it does not emerge within a reasonable time, a scrum is ordered.
    When the ball in a maul becomes unplayable, the referee does not allow prolonged wrestling for it. A scrum is ordered.
    If the ball carrier in a maul goes to ground, including being on one or both knees or sitting, the referee orders a scrum unless the ball is immediately available.
    When the ball is available to be played the referee will call “Use it!” after which the ball must be played within five seconds. If the ball is not played within five seconds the referee will award a scrum and the team not in possession of the ball is awarded the throw-in.

  • Comment 56, posted at 29.02.16 13:27:09 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • Just because i think we have covered every aspect of the maul…anyone see John Mitchell inspire the USA to a loss against the mighty Brazil?

  • Comment 57, posted at 29.02.16 13:34:10 by SheldonK Reply

  • @SheldonK (Comment 57) : penalty kick in the final minutes.

  • Comment 58, posted at 29.02.16 13:42:07 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 55) : I’m just glad the Sharks was good enough to not let the poor decisions from the ref and the tmo affect the result!!!

  • Comment 59, posted at 29.02.16 14:51:36 by JD Reply
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  • @MornĂ© (Comment 39) :

    That is not completely correct.
    A ruck form when players are in contact on their feet and over the ball but only ends when the ball exits (see 16.6). Players going off their feet do not end the ruck, there has to some sort of “ball exit” event.

  • Comment 60, posted at 01.03.16 02:48:24 by fyndraai Reply
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