Making a mockery of the game

Tank Lanning

Is this not just pulling the piss?


The above clip is NOT to have a go at Faf de Klerk or the Boks. All teams are doing it. And as a coach, I would take this from a referee every single day. Hell, I might even introduce it as an option at my next scrum session. Coaches and players must push the legal envelope. Richie McCaw taught us that.

But as a custodian of the game – a game that “aims to promote a fair contest for possession while also giving an advantage to the team putting the ball into the scrum,” this is simply unacceptable.  And for the so-called best referee in the world to let it go, is also unacceptable.

But this is not a day for beating those poor whistle-men about the ears.

We simply have to see the scrum return as a fair contest. Otherwise all we have is rugby league.

The days of the hooker striking on opposition ball are long gone, but the 2018 version of the scrum laws has at least made the strike on your own ball compulsory, which was intended to eliminate the need for a skew scrum feed… Hah!

Robbed of the big initial hit used to gain early scrum ascendancy, scrum coaches around the world bemoaned the strict policing of the straight scrum feed, saying that it negated the advantage that should be afforded to the side feeding the scrum.

Given the safety requirements, and under pressure to rid the sport of multiple scrum resets, the game’s governing body has seemingly given in. That’s why referees are not policing the scrum feed like they were initially implored to do – with the scrumhalf’s shoulder (and not their head) aligned to the middle line of the scrum – and hence the plethora of skew scrum feeds these days.

But this new feed that goes under the flank’s chest, thus bypassing the loosehead prop’s legs completely, takes the skew scrum feed to a whole new level!

Yes, the side awarded the scrum, much like the team awarded the lineout, deserve some sort of advantage. But you also want the side competing for the ball in these two primary phases of the game, to have a chance of stealing it. Especially in a game dominated by such structured defences. Turnover ball gives sides a shot at a less organised defence.

So, bring back the straight feed I say.

The side feeding the scrum, now obliged to strike, will have to set a little higher. And that in turn will lead to fewer resets. But with only seven sets of feet on the ground, as opposed to the opposition’s eight, it does make them susceptible to being shoved off the ball.

This was a big issue while the powers-that-be insisted on the ref deciding when the ball got introduced to the scrum.

Scrumming is about power and technique, but primarily it is about timing. So the new law that allows the side feeding the scrum to control the timing of the feed gives them a significant (but fair) advantage in that they get to time their shove with the feed of the ball using the hooker’s tap and an internal call.

Yet the straight feed keeps it a fair contest. Hell it would be nice to see a defending pack go for the strike rather than the eight-man shove one day!

2018 scrum law amendments:

The put-in

  • The scrum-half must put the ball in straight to the scrum, but they are allowed to align their shoulder to the middle line of the scrum.
  • This means they are putting the ball in a shoulder’s width towards their own team’s side of the scrum.
  • So the ball has to be put in straight, but rather than being put in down the middle of the tunnel it is put in slightly towards the scrum-half’s own team.
  • The referee no longer signals when the scrum-half should put the ball in.
  • The aim is to promote a fair contest for possession while also giving an advantage to the team putting the ball into the scrum. In most cases the opposition will have infringed for that team to be awarded the put-in.

The strike

  • A front-row player must strike the ball once it is put into the tunnel.
  • This is traditionally done by the hooker as they are in the best position to strike the ball but either prop is also permitted to do this.
  • This means the ball cannot be fed straight to the second row, as had previously been happening.
  • The aim is to promote a fair contest for possession.
  • If teams don’t strike the ball, the opposition will be awarded a free-kick.


  • The No 8 is allowed to pick up the ball from the second row.
  • Previously teams had to wait until the ball came through to the back row but the No 8 is now permitted to collect it from the second row.
  • The aim is to promote continuity and speed up play.

- Tank Lanning

Let's chat

  • Brendon Shields

    I think the scrum is over-regulated in so many fascets that does not benefit the viewer. Hell in some games scrums are just something that happens before one team gets a penalty.

    Yet the one thing that does add to the viewer spectacle is seeing a tighthead. A crooked feed removes the possibility of a tighthead, so it’s an absolute MUST that this law is adhered to.

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      Surely the chance of seeing a tighthead IS the only reason people go to rugby!! Hah, a bit like going to Kruger to get a chance of spotting a rhino …

      • Blokkies Joubert

        TIL that Tank Lanning Reddits…

  • Wesley

    The scrum laws have been rewritten to the point of not recognising the esssence anymore. This was the chance for the team that have knocked the ball a chance to win it back by technique. Even with packs dominating, once you knock the ball, you can pretty much forget winning it back even when you perhaps deserve it. With the skew feed the ball gets back even before theres a chance for a shove or strike. lt pissed me off so much in the England game as some scrums you could see the English pack going back at a rate of knots, but the ball already at the centres because of the quick skew feed. If you dominate you should be awarded.

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      True Wesley, and in going for the big shove, all you do is take key personal out of the defensive line, giving the quick feed troops space to fly … Risk vs Return … Need to make it worth the risk

  • Barry

    Tank, I’m wondering if it is not that the guys in the scrum are generally of a lower intellect, such that it make coaching quite difficult?? Lol.

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      And there I was starting to think that you might be a nice guy …

  • Barry

    I think that there are two things that could be introduced quite easily and without huge expense, that would greatly assist the referees to police scrums and thus make it more difficult to “cheat”:

    1. The near side linesman should enter the field of play and stand behind the scrum half at scrum time, whilst the referee stands on the other side of the scrum. In this way feeds, binding and collapses could be closely monitored on both sides. Some Linesmen already do this from touch, but the process should be more formal and mandatory!
    2. A form of Hawk Eye monitoring from above should be standard and monitored by TMO’s. Scruming-in, crabing, holding back on the hits and many other dark art forms would quickly disappear. Not all stadiums could have a proper Hawk eye set up but drone technology is quite advanced now and relatively cheap.

    • John Comyn

      Like we don’t have enough technology already! Now we are talking about drones and additional refs on the field at scrum time. The ref is standing and the scrum is crouched so he already does have an overhead view.

      • Barry

        Well John, if that was the case, then Tank would not have needed to write this column would he?
        You contradict yourself by making the statement below “the ref was on the other side of the scrum and would have expected a call from the touch judge”. In one instance your’e saying you want the touch judge involved and in the other not. If the scrum is in the middle of the field, the touch judge would be 35 metres away – and most don’t have binoculars!
        If your not a scrum expert, as many of the Refs are not, then you would battle to pick up much of this from a side view! The mere fact that there is aerial observation would stop any nonsense in its tracks, so it would be a deterrent, rather than a delay mechanism. At the moment it is hard to detect, so teams do it and get away with it, as Tank has pointed out!
        As a spectator it is also pretty cool to get an occasional overhead view!

        • John Comyn

          I can just see the scenario playing out here. Nigel gives a shrill blow on the whistle, He then tells the bewildered captains to back-off. He then draws an imaginary picture of a drone, not to confuse the viewers, instead of the obligatory square for TV replay. “Marius I want to have another look at the put in. Can you look a the drone footage. Free kick or no Free kick”. After looking at it from 5 different angles the reply is “Nigel you may award a reset – green ball”. 10 minutes goes by game on.

        • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

          Guys, we need to get the current laws policed, and policed objectively. Pain at first, but then rugby would become the game we all once loved again. So I would include an offside line superimposed on that TV ref’s screen, along with drone footage of the scrums. I even like the idea of a second on field ref, but the idea of the touchie coming in is also good.

          As said, initially it would be a massively irritating stop, start penalty fest, but then coaches and players would get used to the laws actually being policed and coach/play accordingly. As it stands, we keep trying to tweak the laws, and we are in fact trying to fix the symptoms and not the issue!

          • SweetAz

            Totally agree, its no longer “sport”, its a professional endeavour where big money rides on a teams success. To leave it up to the interpretation of someone who might be having a bad hair day, or just dislikes the captain of one team is not acceptable. AI can be utilized with cameras and sensors to police the most contentious issues like offsides and forward passes,-the technology is available, it’s just not commercially viable. As someone who was a divemaster in a previous life, I can tell you its impossible to police the doings and screwings of 30 grown running around helter-skelter,-in fact its impossible for a few men to do it, so if a few of those things could be automated it would be a massive help to referees.
            There is a certain team—who I shall not name,—who have a culture of “playing to the ref”. For me growing up as a SAFFA that meant you are supposed to listen to the ref when he blows his whistle, -don’t stop playing until he does that. These guys (who I shall not name) interpret it very differently, to them it means the following.
            Try to make the game as FAST as possible, throwing offloads, chicken wing passes, tip passes, between the legs passes, over the head passes, kick passes, and whatever the frick you can think of,—–don’t worry toooo much about forward/offside/obstruction etc etc. None of that’s your problem, it’s up to the ref and if he doesn’t blow the whistle “She’s All Good Mate”. So, for teams like that the modern rulebook with its surfeit of subjectivity is like Christmas every day.

    • Sharky

      I like your drone idea. A view from directly above would make policing the scrum much easier. But that said, I’m all for rolling things back to the 1980’s laws when the scrum formed itself and the players decided when to engage.

  • John Comyn

    Tank, to be fair mate (not to sound like a Kiwi), in the above clip the ref was on the other side of the scrum and would have expected a call from the touch judge. Also this is not the norm and Faf got away with murder but I do get what you are saying.

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      When I say ref, I really mean officials John, but I hear you. I did single out Owens. That said, a feed this skew could have been spotted from the car park alongside Twickers, even with Guinness or 10 in hand!

      • Chris Mouton

        I finally got around to watch the England vs New Zealand match of this past weekend and they scrummies there also throw it underneath the flanker to the 8th man. Not just Owens missing this…There was one All Black scrum in particular where that ball was at Read’s feet directly after the put in.

  • Frodo

    Feeding the ball straight gives an advantage to shorter hookers as it is easier to get your foot in a position to strike. Shorter fetchers were also at an advantage when stealing balls as the tackler before they introduced the tackle-release law.

    Being a game for all shapes and sizes was always one of rugby’s greatest strengths and the laws should try to accomodate this as much as possible. We don’t want to to just see 120kg beasts bang into eachother all day.

  • maxwell

    There’s no dangerous play, so its fair game, Tank, you need to add this to your coaching – manipulation of the rugby rules and refs. NZ are world class manipulators of the rules and the refs. coaches influence players by teaching them to manupilate the rules. what we need to add to the Boks gameplan is to start playing forwardgame like the ABs did when them were 13- 31 behind. If we played like the ABs did we would have add the 19 points to the 31points. We surely will hell of a team.

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      And then you will have 89kg props with no team prepared to attack the scrum. The whole point about rugby is to have mismatches that see thin guys against fat guys!

      • Maxwell

        Any coach wouldn’t take that chance because we all know who will benefit and who will get the penalty after every scrum. The IRB needs to focus on the manipulation of the rules and influential factors that plays affect referees decisions. There needs to be some punishment for the player, coach, team and referees. The game is slowed down or influenced because of the team manpilating or trying to get a call in their favour. Surely this is part of the gameplan of certain teams. A few points are
        1. the one your mention in this article
        2. obstruction at the mall, Boxkick and attack in the backline
        3. Off the ball incident.
        4. Only the catcher has the right to jump.
        5. The legitimacy of the last tackle when a try was saved.
        6. Coming from the side and clear a player.
        7. Coming into a ruck. Is it a drive or a dive to clear the player. And so on and so on

  • Lester Searle

    Faf caught the ref and the other scrumhalf sleeping. Why did the ref and opposition scrummie move to the opposite side of the scrum? He saw an opportunity/gap and took advantage of it. I don’t think any of the forwards knew what was going on. He was so quick not even du Toit knew what was happening. The ref gifted Faf a “free kick”

  • Dex Kelly

    Yes it is a technical issue. But once the on field ref allows it he CANNOT adjudicate against the other team? Thanks Dex
    Ps I have dozens questions

  • Herman Schroder?

    Is it just me or can one suspect Nige had a hidden agenda in this match ? Old English / French animosity coming to the fore perhaps ?. Playing the Boks into a try scoring opportunity at the end of the match despite the fact that there was ample advantage culminating in that botched forward pass by the supposedly ‘experienced’ Willie. Then ignoring Faf’s highly inventive scrum feeds.

    But then to crown it all ignoring Faf’s kamikazi torpedo like tackle which on any other day would have at least earned a yellow ? But not to leave it there Nige then really pisses off the locals by ‘comforting’ said Faf with a good old shoulder hug Must admit I’ve never seen a ref do that before, least of all in a test match. I’d be very grumpy if I was a Frenchman.

    Maybe old Nige is getting a bit melancholy in his old age and he is of course only 47 going on 50. Or maybe it’s
    just time to hang up the old boots. Of course for Saffers this was a well reffed encounter and the ref was absolutely faultless. Yeah right. Cheers.

    • Chris Mouton

      Let’s not speak about the botched Jantjies kick, hey? Surely the ‘experienced’ Jantjies would’ve kicked that ball out? Luckily the ‘inexperienced’ French player stepped out, which left the ‘experienced’ Owens with making the right call as there was time left. The Boks then sensed the opportunity and managed to turn pressure into points. Faf’s tackle was marginal. Just like Kerevi’s attemped charge down. How can you stop your momentum mid-air? Call it as it is, Herman. A good test match that any team could’ve won and the Springboks pulled through in the end.

      Ah, that’s what’s bothering you! The Boks won. You’re such a strange patriot…

      • SweetAz

        The guy suffers a peculiar German malady called schadenfreude, –he so desperately wants to be right all the time that his confirmation bias is working overtime and he takes great pleasure in pointing out (to the exclusion of all else) every minor detail that may support his already preconceived notion that the Boks are a Bad Team with a Bad Coach with a BAD Plan and BAd Skills.

        Anything that may support this is pounced upon with great glee and an intense AH HA moment,—-everything else is conveniently ignored. It would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.

        • Herman Schroder?

          The only problem is that the Boks prove me right every match so your petty snipe is seen for what’s it’e really worth, nothing. Cheers.

          • SweetAz

            Only to your own jaundiced eyes do you seem to be right mate,-everybody else can see this team and its coach for what they are – a young, enthusiastic bunch of motivated people on an upward curve. It’s not a snipe if its true, I’m not the only one who notices your lack of objectivity and plain downright obnoxious commentary.

  • Barry

    Dyantjies should learn to be one pace behind the passer. At speed you need to pass the ball slightly in front of the player. Standing flat won’t work. Not Willie error.

    • Maxwell

      Seriously Barry.Go and have a look and see its forward. Experienced guy making schoolboys errors.

      • Barry

        Yes it is forward, that’s not my point. The point is that Willie had no options, because Dyantjies was flat. If he had passed it flat, it would have ended up behind his back, or in touch, taking the movement and speed of the players into account. Had Dyantjie been half a pace back, Willie could have passed it flat – game over!

        • Maxwell

          Then you would have blame him too. The blame has to go to someone else. If its forward everything afterwards is void. Why can you except the fact.

        • SweetAz

          Yep, its simple physics, you cant pass an object to a target that is not there and expect it to go back in time to a position where it was 5 milliseconds ago.

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