The new rugby rules are anything but Super
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.