The new rugby rules are any­thing but Su­per

CityPress - - Sport - Dan Retief Fol­low me on Twit­ter @retief­dan

Su­per Rugby coaches have been blind­sided by a num­ber of changes to the rules of the com­pe­ti­tion. An­nounced just three weeks be­fore the start of a com­pli­cated tour­na­ment struc­ture that al­ready had coaches in a tizzy, the rule changes seem to tam­per in­ex­pli­ca­bly and un­nec­es­sar­ily with a for­mat that has worked very well.

Su­per Rugby in­tro­duced the four-try bonus point to en­cour­age at­tack­ing rugby, and coaches can’t see why it was changed – es­pe­cially with no proper con­sul­ta­tion with the peo­ple who ac­tu­ally run the game.

The new bonus-point rule is that a team can se­cure a try-scor­ing bonus point by scor­ing three or more tries than their op­po­nents – rather than sim­ply scor­ing four tries.

The los­ing bonus-point rule re­mains un­changed, with sides that lose by seven points or less earn­ing a sin­gle log point.

It has also been de­cided that teams will be able to set up a line-out on be­ing awarded a penalty af­ter the hooter has sounded.

But it is the change to the try-scor­ing bonus point that has coaches fum­ing.

Both Cru­saders coach Todd Black­ad­der and Chiefs man­ager Dave Ren­nie were up­set that news of the change ar­rived by email; the for­mer de­scribed the change as “bizarre”.

South African coaches were more cir­cum­spect – per­haps be­cause most have vir­tu­ally no Su­per Rugby ex­pe­ri­ence and their time was be­ing spent on plot­ting a course through the ar­chi­pel­ago of fix­tures – but they were equally sur­prised.

Andy Mari­nos, the SA Rugby Union’s for­mer mar­ket­ing man­ager who is now the CEO of San­zaar (the ex­tra “A” recog­nis­ing Ar­gentina’s en­try along­side South Africa, New Zealand and Aus­tralia) has drawn flak for the poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion and his high-handed re­sponse to the grum­bles em­a­nat­ing from New Zealand.

Mari­nos has made no friends in the coun­try that has dom­i­nated Su­per Rugby and The Rugby Cham­pi­onship (pre­vi­ously the Tri Na­tions), and if what was ar­guably the world’s best rugby tour­na­ment runs into trou­ble, the knives will be out for him.

As­ton­ish­ingly, Mari­nos used the fact that the new tryscor­ing sys­tem has been in place in France for some sea­sons and worked well – when most in the know are ex­tremely wor­ried about the stan­dard of French rugby.

The three-tries-ahead sys­tem is meant to en­cour­age more at­tack­ing play, but it might turn out to have the op­po­site ef­fect, with teams be­com­ing more de­fen­sive.

Cer­tainly, if a team were to get three tries ahead, they are un­likely to try for more touch­downs. Rather, they will slip back into de­fen­sive mode, tie up the ball, keep it safe and kick into the cor­ners to not run the risk of los­ing their bonus point.

In­stead of the dom­i­nant team not striv­ing for the fourth try, there is also no in­cen­tive for the los­ing side to at least try to score four tries to sal­vage a bonus point.

The de­ci­sion to al­low a team awarded a penalty to kick for touch “af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle”, to set up a li­ne­out with the in­ten­tion of driv­ing the ball over the line, also makes no sense.

One of the blots in the game is the driv­ing maul, which turns the game into an unattrac­tive melee, which is tech­ni­cally il­le­gal. It should have been erad­i­cated; in­stead, it is en­cour­aged.

One of the the­o­ries put for­ward is that the changes have been made to “pro­tect” the South­ern Kings and the Ja­panese Sun­wolves, as San­zaar of­fi­cials are deeply con­cerned that th­ese two teams could turn out to be an em­bar­rass­ment.

So a com­pe­ti­tion built on all-out at­tack is be­ing geared to­wards dreary de­fence again? As Black­ad­der said: How bizarre.

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