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Rassie Erasmus wants ‘scrum referees’ to prevent teams from deliberately collapsing scrums

SA Rugby’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus. Picture: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix

SA Rugby’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus. Picture: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix

Published May 1, 2022

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Durban - SA Rugby’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has come up with suggestions to make the game more attractive, including having former rugby props act as “scrum referees” to eradicate the malaise of tedious scrum collapses that eat up game time.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the ever-innovative Erasmus also says it is time to have two referees because one ref can’t be expected to get the more than 800 decisions per game right and he feels that goal kickers take too long and there must be a “shot clock” to hurry them up, with no more than 60 seconds allowed for a penalty and 90 for a conversion.

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Erasmus says spectators want more ball in play time and one of the worst time-sappers is scrum resets. He hints that referees don’t really know what is going on in the front rows and the best way to stop the collapsing is to have renowned former props coming on to the field to referee the scrums.

“These guys could roam along the touchline, as close as possible to the action, and the moment a scrum is called they sprint on to officiate it. Get them in the gym so they are on and off the pitch quickly. It would be their only job, so they would have no impact on the rest of the game,” Erasmus wrote.

“There are about 20 scrums a match so you could even put a microphone on them and link them up to the TV commentary team so the viewers understand what’s going on. According to the law book, a team must be ready to form a scrum within 30 seconds of the referee’s mark. A scrum referee could police this. If you go back to the Nineties, a scrum would be formed 20 seconds from the knock-on. It was so much quicker. Why are they becoming a nightmare?

“Well, scrums didn’t collapse 25 years ago because there were physical consequences. I was a flanker and my prop would say, “If we are ever going backward, just keep me up”. If you dared collapse the scrum the other team would just ruck over you and there would be blood. You were s**t scared of collapsing a scrum. That doesn’t happen now because players know they are protected by player welfare and citing commissioners, which I fully support.

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“Instead, you see more scrums collapsing due to tactical reasons and teams get away with it. The only other solution is to have an expert there who knows the scrum mechanics inside out and can make quick decisions with authority.

“If teams are trying to slow it down then stop the clock. We have tried tweaking many different things but the scrum remains a problem. There are already 58 things you can be punished for at a scrum and we don’t need to make things more complicated. So bring in guys who can communicate with the coaches during the week.

“Nobody would question decisions made by guys like Graham Rowntree or Joe Marler as expert scrum referees if they officiate the scrums as stated precisely in the law book and better yet no one in the game will have to adapt.

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