Rugby’s coronavirus-enforced hiatus gives the sport much time to reflect

Former Test ref Shaun Veldsman says the ruck needs to be cleaned up. “Often the ball takes time to emerge from a ruck. I would allow hands in the ruck, whether a player is on his feet or not. You’ll still have a fair contest because both teams would be able to use their hands in the ruck.”
Former Test ref Shaun Veldsman says the ruck needs to be cleaned up. “Often the ball takes time to emerge from a ruck. I would allow hands in the ruck, whether a player is on his feet or not. You’ll still have a fair contest because both teams would be able to use their hands in the ruck.”
Image: Michael Sheehan

Rugby’s coronavirus-enforced hiatus has given it much time to reflect and its laws are under review to make the game safer and more watchable once it returns in a more sustained way.

While there has been general caution about how to make the game safer, ideas around how to speed it up and make it more spectator friendly have emerged from every crack.

Some argue that the sport should get back to being a sport of evasion, rather than one of endless collisions. 

Others focus on what should be tweaked to guarantee a fair contest.

“For me it’s the sending offs,” said Springbok Rugby World Cup winning flyhalf from 1995 Joel Stransky. 

“For a team to have a red card changes the outcome of the game massively. Even a yellow card can do that. In 10 minutes, if the other team is clinical they can score three tries. 

You want to punish a team but you don’t want to completely take the game away from them. It must be difficult but not impossible

"That’s potentially 21 points and its game over.

“I like the idea of a red card but you get to replace that person after a period of time.”

Stransky is also a proponent of sanctioning a team commensurate to their crime. 

“What I would also advocate is that you can’t have a double whammy where you get a sending off and a penalty try. It should be one or the other.

“Also, if you have a sending off that should be defined as 10 minutes or 10 points. In the case of a red card I think they are looking at 20 minutes before someone else can come back on. 

"You want to punish a team but you don’t want to completely take the game away from them. It must be difficult but not impossible.”

He also has distinct thoughts on how the scrum, especially its resets can be a source of less frustration.

“If a scrum has to be reset stop the clock. Three or four minutes of game time gets wasted because the scrums have to be reset. That is just useless.”

Former Test referee and TMO Shaun Veldsman is also keen to see a game with greater flow to it.

For that to happen, however, the murky shallows of the ruck needs to be cleaned up.

“Often the ball takes time to emerge from a ruck. I would allow hands in the ruck, whether a player is on his feet or not.

"You’ll still have a fair contest because both teams would be able to use their hands in the ruck.”

The tackle is also an area Veldsman would use to speed up the game. 

“The ball carrier should be able to place the ball without interference. 

"Too often the referee has to remind the tackler with ‘roll away, roll away’. 

"That should be policed in a stricter way because the player knows they have to roll away.

"Basically the infringement has already been committed and the defence has had time to reset.”

Veldsman said rugby faces uncertain times because of the adjustments it may have to make to be played with the spectre of Covid-19 a constant.

“It is a contact sport. You can’t remove contact from the game. Are you still going to have a proper tussle for the ball?” he wondered.


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