World champs should influence rule changes
Let’s forget for the moment that fame is short-lived, and that now jubilant supporters and opportunistic politicians’ memory is even shorter, and enjoy the moment.
Countries that have won the World Cup have in the past used their winning status to propagate and get rule changes to their advantage. The exception was South Africa, who after our win in 1995 were so caught up in the “rainbow nation euphoria” that we let the opportunity pass. This must not happen again now.
The question is of course: What rule changes will do justice to the game and at the same time suit our players?
The first thing we have to guard against is wanting to change the rules without a specific philosophy. Over the past almost five years, I have repeatedly pointed out inconsistencies in the rules that affect rugby at its core. Now, after several controversial incidents and refereeing performances during the RWC, there is a sudden reaction.
After the World Cup, well-respected Welsh ex-referee Nigel Owens spoke sharply against the technically complicated direction in which the rule-makers have taken the game.
Of course, I agree with Owens and appreciate that he is now willing to publicly voice his concerns. My question is: Where was the concern of those like Owens in the years before, when they chose to defend the rules and the referees instead?
I have always predicted that it would take incidents like All Black captain Sam Cane’s red card and Cheslin Kolbe’s yellow card in the World Cup final to force World Rugby to rethink their skewed rules, and especially their enforcement.
Moreover, when a former Springbok captain like Divan Serfontein says he no longer watches rugby because there are too many rules, and the game is boring and programmed and predictable, he expresses what many other people think of the modern game.
Rugby’s rules should be based on certain fundamental principles. For example: First, it’s a game where the ball should be carried. If teams can win more easily by kicking the ball or taking it to the ground, there is something wrong somewhere.
Secondly, there are specific facets such as the 22 drop-out, scrum and lineout which bring the ball into play and where players with different body types and skills can compete, as scrums and lineouts require.
Thirdly, no team should be able to take advantage of his mistakes. The difficult decision here is how long the benefit should apply to the non-offenders.
Fourth, when a team kills the play on purpose, such as kicking the ball out, it must contest the opponents’ throw-in to regain possession. This means that the team that kicks a penalty kick may not throw the ball in at the subsequent lineout. In any case, a team should not be punished twice for the same offence.
Fifth, players who do not have the ball may not be played or prevent opponents from playing the ball carrier. In this regard rugby is already well on the way to American grid-iron. The tackle situation is the source of numerous problems.
Sixth, players will make mistakes, but the penalty should measure up with the mistake. Players who are guilty of foul play – such as kicking opponents or injuring themselves with a swinging arm – must, for example, be sent off summarily. But blatant foul play should be the only reason two teams don’t play each other at full strength.
Finally, substitutions should be for injuries, because rugby is a game over 80 minutes of which endurance is an important component.
World Rugby’s president, Bill Beaumont, says World Rugby only changes rules after careful consideration. If so, why the many contradictions? What is Saru’s position in this regard?
– Translated from Netwerk24/Rapport