Law discussion: What is a kick?

Thu, 17 Oct 2013 08:13
Large jonathan kaplan5 Large jonathan kaplan4 Large jonathan kaplan2

What is a kick? It sounds such a simple question, but it is not.

What is a kick? It sounds such a simple question, but it is not.

In the heavy rain at Kings Park in Durban last Saturday, the Sharks played Western Province in a top-of-the-log Currie Cup clash. The winner would top the log and so was in line for the Final should they win the semifinal. That is lots of kudos and lots of money.

In the first half, with scores even, SP Marais of the Sharks gathers a kick by Dimitri Catrakelis of Western Province. Marais runs and chips into the hands of Gerhard van den Heever. Van den Heever runs forward but is tacked. The ball comes back to Western Province and their scrumhalf Louis Schreuder breaks ad Pieter-Steph du Toit and Jacques Botes bear down on him. Schreuder drops the ball to his boot and the ball rolls forward where Fred Zeilinga picks it up but in a tackle by Michael van der Spuy of Western Province Zeilinga knocks the ball on and De Kock Steenkamp beats it back to his side. Western Province move the ball left and Duane Vermeulen puts Deon Fourie into a gap and the flank races over for a try.

The referee does not immediately award the try but refers the matter to the TMO. The referee tries to watch the big screen but the pouring rain, not evident on television, makes it difficult. The TMO has a clearer view and looks at the incident over and over.

Did Schreuder kick the ball or was it a knock-on?

The referee wisely wants a 'clear and obvious' decision.

The definition of a kick is important.

a kick is made by hitting the ball with any part of the leg or foot, except the heel, and from knee to toe, but not including the knee. A kick must move a visible distance out of the hand.

It seems that Schreuder's foot does make contact with the ball. He does not play it with his heel but with his foot.

It is not easy to see whether his toe or his underfoot first touches the ball - not that the underfoot is ruled out by law as the heel is.

There is a debate about whether or not the ball touched the ground before the foot made contact and it is said that if it had touched ground first it would have been a knock-on.

This is not entirely clear in law as a drop kick, which need not be at goal, allows for the ball to touch the ground first,.

Drop kick:
The ball is dropped from the hand or hands to the ground and kicked as it rises from its first bounce.

Sometimes in a grubber kick the ball is allowed to fall to the ground before being kicked.


A knock-on occurs when a player loses possession of the ball and it goes forward, or when a player hits the ball forward with the hand or arm, or when the ball hits the hand or arm and goes forward, and the ball touches the ground or another player before the original player can catch it.
‘Forward’ means towards the opposing team’s dead ball line.

Was Schreuder kicking or did he lose possession of the ball?

It seems that Schreuder intended to kick the ball as the big men grabbed him and that he was trying to do so. The question is did he actually do so? It was not the case of a player who loses possession and then lashes out with a boot to try to kick the ball. Schreuder, it seems, wanted to kick the ball before he dropped it towards his boot.

It's not easy, but then referrals to the TMO are usually in difficult circumstances.

In the end the referee and the TMO agree that it is not clearly and obviously a knock-on, not clearly and obviously not a kick, and so the referee does not take any action on the incident and awards the try.

The principle of 'clear and obvious' is a good one. There is no room in refereeing for guesswork.