Presto, we’ve fixed the scrum!

The eight-man scrum is a distinguishing feature of rugby union that has for too long been a source of consternation for fans, coaches and refs. The AOR team rolled up their sleeves to find a solution.

Tank Lanning – Make the strike compulsory for both sides

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

Making the strike on your own ball compulsory last year was intended to eliminate the skew scrum feed … Well, we all know how that’s gone! Robbed of the hit, scrum coaches bemoaned the strict policing of the straight feed, saying it negated the advantage that should be afforded the feeding side.

Given the safety requirements, and under pressure to rid the game of multiple scrum resets, the game’s governing body has seemingly given in. Hence this ridiculous new feed that goes under the flank’s chest, thus bypassing not only the hooker, but the loosehead prop’s legs completely!

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.

So bring back the straight feed, I say. AND make it compulsory for both sides to strike!

Both sides will then have to set a little higher, leading to fewer resets. But more importantly, it would see both sides having only seven sets of feet on the ground, instead of the opposition having eight, which made the feeding side susceptible to being shoved off their ball.

Scrumming is about power and technique, but primarily it is about timing. The side feeding the scrum gets to control the timing of the feed, which gives them a significant (but fair) advantage in that they get to time their initial shove with the feed.

Vital to this working though, would be policing the straight feed as it keeps the scrum a fair contest. And of course policing the opposition strike, which would indeed be tricky.

Zelím Nel – Eliminate the feed

Efforts to officiate a straight scrum feed are noble but doomed to fail because, in the transfer of the ball between the scrumhalf and hooker, the referee is dealing with two of the most conniving characters on the pitch!

It’s time for a radical rethink around how to restart play using a scrum contest that gives both teams a shot at winning the ball, so here goes: eliminate the scrum feed.

Instead, when a scrum is awarded, the ref places the ball on the mark.

Next, the two front rows deploy on opposite sides of the ball so that, from a bird’s-eye view:

  1. the defending tighthead is directly opposite the ball
  2. the ball is opposite the space between the attacking hooker and loosehead prop

The two front rows set up so that they are correctly bound and engaged over the ball. On the ref’s signal, the locks and back rows plug into their respective front rows, and both tight fives get their feet back and absorb the pressure.

The ref then ensures that both front rows have retained their initial position over the ball before signaling the start of the scrum.

This simplifies the contest from a refereeing point of view. The officials don’t have to police the feed, the scrum height, or slipped binds from the hit. It also narrows the scope of the scrum contest to shoving to get over the ball so that the hooker can strike.

The attacking team has the advantage that their hooker is in a better position to make that strike, but the defending team can win a tighthead if they go forward.

Both packs would have to scrum to get far enough over the ball to strike at it, with the ref mandated to award the attacking team a free-kick if the scrum is deadlocked after 10 seconds.

You’ve read what they think, now let us know where you stand in The Big Debate!

- Big Debate

Let's chat

  • boyo

    Zelim I cant fault you for effort I mean we getting into some real out the box thinking here!

    I dont think the scrums have been too bad this season. We seeing the occasional scrum penalty which means team still need to invest in a good scrum but we also seeing refs encourage the Scrum half to get the ball out instead of milking penalties from relatively neutral field positions.

    The scrum is a restart to the game and while we want to see a dominant scrum rewarded we also dont want to see a team get a penalty from a knock on essentially. Maybe should be short arm penalty outside the 22?

    • Redge

      Referees clearly have no idea what’s happening in the scrums. The amount of penalties and time they waste on setting up scrums are pathetic. It’s almost as if the officials go one for you and one for you

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      Scrum penalties KILL me. At the behest of a guessing ref, or for a prop suffering from physics, a natural phenomenon. Yes, fewer resets, but WAYYYYYY worse skew feeds. A scrum is one way to keep 16 fat okes in a small space of the field. It’s key

      • boyo

        True Tank and my all time favorite the yellow carding of a prop who is getting destroyed. I would love to see a yellow card for a player for being outperformed in another area.

  • Wesley

    Have to go on the straight feed and strike from Tank, although out the box thinking is from Zelim is to be lauded. The feed and strike has been a staple of rugby for years and years, now coaches and administrators have muddied the waters for their own benefit so much, we dont know what is happening anymore…

  • Johan

    The scrum is another place where you can gain an advantage.

    What bothers me most is all the resets and time lost when scrumming.

    I think there needs to be a fixed number of rules that us enforced:
    – Teams have 10 seconds or something similar to setup their scrum from the refs call
    – – Offending team gets free kick
    – Clock is stopped while teams gather and setup, restarts as soon as ref calls “ball in” to 9s

    Then there also needs to be rules for scrumming that can be easily seen and understood by fans, none of that “dark arts” subjective calls:
    – Scrum straight
    – Stay on you feet
    – – Slipping is your own fault/responsibility keep your feet underneath yourself
    – Bind on the jersey not the arm
    – Flankers/eight must be bound by the shoulder until the ball is out
    – etc…

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      Feeding on the “Ball in” from the ref takes away the advantage of timing. But I like your thinking and logic

      • Johan

        This can remain a visual signal/nod of the head. Then the scrumhalf has a few seconds to time it as he wishes…

        The key point for me is the ball is in play for 33 minutes out of 80.
        I’m having difficulty finding newer stats, but the CRUvsLIO final was 35min, WARvHIG was 31 min and CRUvSHA game 32min. In 2018 play-off games.

        Also according to an older article on ROAR the average time in 2011 was 35 mins 25 secs
        And that article calculated that the scrum wasted the most time at 16.47%

        That is 13 minutes, on average, where we are waiting for a scrum to start

    • boyo

      I agree with everything especially the speeding up of scrums

  • boyo

    I think barry has won the debate with one of his points. Make scrums set faster and then we not going to worry so much about the resets. The ref must penalize teams who don’t set up and engage fast.

  • Barry

    The prime purpose is to win the ball and to gain a meter or so to give your attack front foot ball. With that in mind, it is more about shove than hook and rules should be based on these drivers!

    Insisting on a hookers strike is really too prescriptive- let the sides decide whether they want to shove or hook, or have a stab at doing both.

    To my mind it is more important to have; timing, straight feeds and squared front rows to ensure a fair contest.

    I have said it before, the use of drones or hawk eye over head surveillance is also critical. This can be monitored by the TMO. This would hugely assist in tempering the dark arts!

    Lastly bring the near side linesman into the field of play to monitor the feed and bind on the opposite side!

    • Vic

      Please dont get the tmo imvolved just another stoppage

  • John Comyn

    I remember back in the day if the throw in was skew or there was a foot up before the strike the opposing side got the throw in. Talking about front rows it does not get bigger than on Saturday. Coenie ver Malherbe/Louw, Akker ver Bongi and Beast ver Vermark. Going to be epic!

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      Other way round John

    • Barry

      Yes it’s going to be big, well I hope so!

      Stormers have a better second row – 4 & 5 are the issue for the Sharks. They need to watch Vermaak’s technique closely. His bind disappears into the tunnel which is indicative of scrumming in.

      On balance I think Stormers have the edge at scrum time.

      Peyper is not great with scrum technique unfortunately and you would have thought they would keep Seconds away from the Stormers for the time being, with current public option, but no, he’ll be keeping touch on Saturday!

      • Dean Bright

        Ruan Botha is definitely no weak link. Sharks front row will definitely better that Stormers one. The experience and guile of Beast, Coenie and Akker will show up Vermaak’s inexperience. Malherbe should never be starting ahead of Wilco. Tank to come on in the 2nd half…ouch. Let’s not even talk about the backline. The Stormers have players out of position, 2 coming back from injury and an inexperienced 9 and 10. Compare that with the Sharks, lightning in the back 3, a settled center combination and halfback pairing. There’s stability in the Sharks team all round. The Stormers’ only chance in this game is to bring it down to an arm wrestle. That Lions win was a fluke. Order will be brought back this weekend.

      • John Comyn

        I’m not concerned about Ali. He will hold his own. Great news Seconds is wearing no 16 for the Stormers but still hoping it rains. I think the only way we can win is if the game turns into a lottery.

    • boyo

      Should be a good battle John

      I feel the stormers pack just edges it but then I don’t think a single stormers back would make the sharks side. If it rains that will help the stormers.

      • John Comyn

        I’m not sure sure. Coenie is looking brutal, Akker is playing out of his skin and Beast will be up for this one. I’d feel a lot more comfortable if Kitsie was playing. Wilco needs game time and I don’t really rate Malherbe. I am hoping the Sharks start with Thomas, he’s always good for 6 to 9 points. I can’t agree with you in the backs. Jean-Luc Du Plessis is at least as good as Robert Du Preez and was the preferred choice ahead of Du Preez. Without starting a huge debate, I still think De Allende is the best 12 in SA. Under estimate Sergeal at your own peril.

        • Dean Bright

          The Stormers burgled that win against the Lions through the shambles of a refereeing decision. Put that game into context. The Lions had just come back from a tough game against Argentina XV. Their talisman got injured early in the game and they don’t have the depth in the backrow like they used to. One opportunistic try separated the teams. That being the Stormers’ first try in 165 minutes of rugby. The Sharks will punish the Stormers’ ill discipline this weekend. 16 turnovers and 13 penalties. Robert du Preez will have a field day pinning them back and slotting penalties.

        • Herman Schroder?

          John. DDA the best 12 in SA ??? LOL. Misses 50% of his tackles, avoids tackles with skillful dropping off of pace ( an art form ), distribution is poor, passing poor and vision non existent. On the plus side he plays for the Stormers which is good for the opposition.

          Jean Luc still has a long way to go but to be fair he has been hampered by injuries. Another Lambie in the making ? So far he has been pretty unimpressive but again to be fair he is playing for a pretty useless team despite their top heavy ‘Bok’ squad. And the coach is ‘coaching challenged’. And the Union is bankrupt. And the Stadium is falling apart. Etc, etc.

          Probably explains why they had to win last Saturday no matter what, lol. Cheers.

        • boyo

          I rate Malherbe, the ideal for the boks would be Malherbe starting and Coenie coming off the bench. Kitschoff is a big loss.

          I think the best case to be made for a WP back is Willemse over bosch at 15.

          Du Plessis needs a run without injury before I can really judge him but I think Stander could be playing more.

        • Barry

          John if your response is to my post, I was referring to second row not back row viz locks, not loosies! See article by Rob Houwing on the 12 channel, you’d need to convince him otherwise.

  • Albert

    Good debate from both sides. I think placing the ball on the ground would bring with it many issues and only really solve the skew feed. I am sure all the specialist coaches would just find ways around whatever is introduced.

    However, for this debate I would agree with Tank and add on similar laws which Barry mentioned. Props scrumming in, hookers not hooking, loosies not bound, 9’s pushing the offside line every time. These are the real issues we need to sort out. The Aussies are masters of the dark arts and use these tactics to survive the scrum and get the ball.

    I am sure we all enjoyed the days of Argentinas Bajada, when they took any team apart at scrum time by employing a strong 8 man scrum. I am sure Tank can give some more insight into that of course.

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      I actually LOVE Zel’s alternate thinking here. We do have to do something with the scrum. The practical flaw is that the hooker’s foot would not reach the ball in the position Zels suggests. And with the ball down method, there would be no strike at all. So it would be a monstrous 8 v 8 brawn v brawn affair. Which comes with it’s own positives. Modern day props are basically flanks with a smidgen more covering. So with all 15 players looking and acting similarly, we have moved away from one of the key fundamentals of rugby – it’s a game for all sizes. Which also means we no longer have slow guys who can’t get to the breakdown or make a tackle. So attack becomes incredibly difficult.

      Committing to a scrum that needs proper brawn might see the return of the giant, slightly slower forward, which would then give the game a bit more space to breathe …. Maybe???

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      The Bajada was the berries. I actually use a lot of the technique in my scrum coaching. Breathing, dipping, timing, pressure, all to a focal point …

      • John Comyn

        Tank, off subject! What is your opinion of Malherbe?

        • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

          Wayyyy off the pace. Holds his own given inherent physical strength and experience. But no longer dominates. And does not do much round the field. He took a proper hammering form Dylan mith in 2 scrums last weekend

  • John Comyn

    Thanks Tank. Confirms what I suspected. He seems to think because he is a senior citizen he can cruise around the park doing zip. Hoping Wilco is up for Saturday and gets a start.

  • Christoff

    Change the set, have the front rows bind and engage first and then the rest of the pack joins once the front row is settled. The massive impact with current setul is what is causing binds not being made properly.
    Keep the rest as is for a nice grunty, competitive, unpredictable scrum.

  • RobZ

    If we are thinking out of the box, why not take a leaf out of ice hockey ?
    Standard scrum, both can strike,
    But…. Ref feeds ball in on hookers tap.
    Ref ‘hopefully’ feeds straight.
    Advantage to ‘feeding’ side is timing and the option to move scrum half to rear of scrum ( another loosie)
    Less scrum half competition.

  • Nick

    I’ve always thought if the scrum was tighter, there would be less errors. A stronger, clean hit, means a quick take by the hooker, more space for moves of the back, because the tight 5 is more committed, etc. So i propose a hand sized loop or ‘grip’ to be placed at binding points. Basicly a ‘belt’ around the hooker’s waist, (seperate loops for each prop), a ‘grip’ on the outside shoulder of each prop for the hooker to bind on, and the same loop arrangement for each lock to bind on his prop, and his lock partner. Basicly to tighten, thus straighten the tight 5. Almost like mountaineering harness. The back row, have the option of using the grips if needed. A purely ‘cosmetic’ change that would make scrums better. In my opinion.

    • SweetAz

      Problem is that makes them easier to tackle as well.

  • Faghrie

    Because of the laws pertaining to the way the scrum half feeds the ball into the scrum , shouldn’t we also allow the hooker to throw skew in the lineout and allow the forward pass.

  • SweetAz

    I like the idea of “building” the scrum, let the front rows engage and set, then bring the locks in followed by flanks and 8th man,—most scrum issues are around the set of the scrum and this should negate them because no real force can be applied during this process. Both hookers must strike when the ball comes in and no pushing before the ball is thrown. The scrumhalf must throw in straight and the only advantage he has is timing his throw with the hooker,–exactly the same as the lineout. That way one team has a small advantage but nothing insurmountable or uncontestable

  • jaco

    the scrum is the best its been in decades, penalties and resets are at a low point

    – why fix something that has just been fixed?

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