IOL Sport rugby writer Wynona Louw.
Is it time for rugby to ditch the scrum?

While reset scrums are right up there when it comes to frustrating rugby activities, it is still an integral part of the game, and watching two units try and outscrum each other through power and technique can sure make for a good watch, even if you’ve never packed down yourself.

So rugby should never be without it. But for all the good the set-piece still brings, scrums are just taking up too much time nowadays.

We have seen the tedious activity at Test level, we’ve seen it at Super Rugby level, and we’ve seen it too often to treat it as some kind of rugby oddity. In fact, seeing quickly in, quickly out scrums for a couple of weeks in a row in Super Rugby would definitely be considered as such.

Following their 21-all draw against the Sharks last Friday, Crusaders skipper Kieran Read voiced his frustration after their scrum was repeatedly penalised in Christchurch.

Read accused the Sharks of not wanting to scrum and explained how difficult that is to deal with if you “just want to get the ball out”.

Understandably so.

“From our point of view, we want to scrum, we want to get the ball and get out. When you’ve got a team which is potentially trying tricks and isn’t doing the same thing every scrum, you’re going to scrums which go down and don’t complete,” a frustrated Read told stuff.co.nz.

“When one scrum is wanting to scrum and to keep it up ... I don’t think we got rewarded for that. It’s important for refs to hopefully learn from that.”

That match was yet another one in which we saw reset after reset. And one thing Read’s complaints relayed was the fact that teams are also increasingly using scrums to milk penalties ... not that it’s anything new. But if that continues to be tolerated, you can be sure that we aren’t going to see the set-piece speed up at all.

So isn’t it time that something gets done?

Timed scrums could be the answer.

Stats show that, on average, ball-in-play time amounts to only 30 minutes per game ... that’s a mere half an hour out of an 80-minute game.

Scrums certainly has to be one of, if not the biggest, time-waster, and limiting the duration of the set-piece could go a long way in ensuring the ref doesn’t get to the point where he is forced to ignore all else and let teams just play on just because he is feeling the pressure from a grumpy crowd that has had enough of a never-ending episode of The Dark Arts.

That rarely happens though, referees seldom just let scrum malfunctions slide.

And they shouldn’t have to just because both packs take forever to scrape themselves off the turf after every all-too-often crumbled scrum or move in to reassemble in what has become typical unhurried fashion.

The timed scrum could follow exactly the same principle as the current laws, with the only difference being that the team in possession has to get the ball into the tunnel and out of the scrum in say 60 seconds.

If they don’t (without foul play from the opposition), possession should go to the team that was not in possession going into the first scrum.

It might sound drastic, but something needs to be done about the ongoing, constantly-reset borefest that has become scrum time.

@WynonaLouw


Cape Times

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