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Law discussion: Advantage over

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: @rugby365com’s  Law guru Paul Dobson takes a look at an incident during the match between Stormers and Sharks at Soccer City in Soweto.


In the 11th minute of the match, the Stormers are penalised and the Sharks kick into touch for a five-metre lineout. As the Sharks hooker, Kerron van Vuuren, throws the ball into the lineout, the referee puts and arm out and says: “Advantage – numbers.” This is because there are six Stormers in the lineout to the five of the Sharks.

The ball is thrown to Le Roux Roets at the front of the lineout and the Sharks maul the ball to within a metre of the Stormers’ goal line. They have another bash at the line. They are repelled and then knock the ball on. The referee awards a scrum to the Stormers for the Sharks’ knock-on.

Commentator: “I feel the Sharks may well feel hard done by. They had the numbers advantage at the lineout. The ref called for advantage for the free kick and then said ‘advantage over’ two phases later with no real advantage. One of those things – when does advantage stop?”

A clear and real tactical or territorial benefit arising after an infringement by the opposition

If you are better off after the infringement than before the infringement you have had an advantage, not because of the infringement but after the infringement.

Law 7.1 Advantage


a. May be tactical. The non-offending team is free to play the ball as they wish.
b. May be territorial. Play has moved toward the offending team’s dead-ball line.
c. May be a combination of tactical and territorial.

In this case a, b and c apply – The Sharks played on as they wished and they moved ahead. It may have been only four metres but that is in four of the most important five metres on the rugby field.

Law 7.2 Advantage ends when
a. The referee deems the non-offending team has gained an advantage. The referee allows play to continue.

The referee does the deeming. It is up to him to decide whether or not a team has had an advantage.


In this case the referee deemed that Sharks had gained an advantage, were better off than before the infringement. He had good reason so to deem.

How long should a referee allow advantage to be played? There is not time limit but nobody wants advantage to be stretched until it fizzles out in a return to the original decision, cutting out a fair amount of play as if it had never happened.

In this case the infringement’s sanction was a free kick. To go back to it would have given the Sharks a choice tapping and bashing or having a five-metre scrum.

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