Get Newsletter

Law discussion: Matches that teach us

SPOTLIGHT: @rugby365com‘s law guru Paul Dobson gets stuck into some refereeing decision which not have been to everybody’s liking.


There is something to learn from every match you get involved in, even if it’s just as a spectator.

We have some incidents from last weekend’s Super Rugby matches that teach us a bit about the laws.

Times are given in case a recording of a match is available and the incident can be seen.

1. Bulls vs Highlanders – colour confusion

Any time in the fast half will do, but try to watch what happens in broken play.

There are several colours to the rainbow but when the Bulls played the Highlanders it seemed that there only two – mainly blue but with some white dividing lines.


This went on for the whole of the first half, but during the break, the Bulls changed into white jerseys with some yellow lines, and the match became easier for match officials and spectators – and also for players who said afterwards that the confusion produced uncertainty. (Is that man in blue running near me a team-mate or an opponent?)

There is nothing in the laws about this and, in heaven’s name, surely there is no need for it to be covered by law, any more than there is a need to say that boots are to be won on feet and not on hands. It is old Law 28 – commonsense.

Even if SANZAAR’s jersey cards were an inadequate representation of the colours, even if the players warmed up in jerseys other than their match-day jerseys, even if the captains wore tops at the tossing of the coin, there must surely have been an awareness of the colour clash when the teams lined up.

In a case such as this, it should have been the visiting team – the Blues – who changed their strip.


Could the referee have played a part?

Obviously there are other people who should have seen to avoiding the clash, but the referee could have called timeout as soon as he was aware of the difficulties and investigated the possibility of a solution. As usual, a referee can only react to what others have done or neglected to do.

What happened at Loftus Versfeld when the Bulls played the Blues did no credit at all to rugby’s professionalism. It’s a game, not a farce.

There was an occasion at Loftus Versfeld when one team had blue jerseys and so did the referee. Somebody asked the chairman of Blue Bulls referees how many colours of the rainbow there are, and the chairman – Tappe Henning – replied: “Here in Pretoria all the colours of the rainbow are blue.”

2 a. Crusaders vs Reds

46 minutes – grounded and tackling

Chris Feauai-Sautia has the ball. George Bridge and Richie Mo’unga attempt to tackle him. Bridge tackles Feauai-Sautia and brings him to ground but Mo’unga bounces off Feauai-Sautia and falls on the ground. Feauai-Sautia pops the ball to lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto who does not get far, as Mo’unga, lying on the ground, brings him down. Play goes on and eventually Taniela Tupou scores a try for the Reds.

2 b. Sharks vs Jaguares

48 minutes – grounded and tackling

Makazole Mapimpi of the Sharks tackles Joaquín Tuculet of the Jaguares. Both go to ground. Emiliano Boffelli gets the ball, but Mapimpi, lying on the ground, brings him down. The referee penalises Mapimpi.

Law 14.8 Other players must
d. not play the ball or attempt to tackle an opponent while on the ground near the tackle.
Sanction: Penalty

In both instances, the player on the ground – Mo’unga and Mapimpi – infringes and is liable to be penalised.

In the first case, the referee does not penalise Mo’unga but it is possible that he played advantage, though he gave no such indication. Mo’unga was not a tackler but he was a player on the ground near a tackle, and therefore liable to be penalised.

3. Sharks vs Jaguares

15 minutes – rare corner post intervention.

In his own half, Jaguares scrumhalf Gonzalo Bertranou passes back to his flyhalf Joaquín Bonilla who kicks downfield towards the touchline on his left. The ball lands in the field of play and then bounces on and on till it strikes the corner post. The ball bounces a short distance back into the field of play where Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassi gathers the ball. Bonilla, who has followed =up, attempts to tackle Fassi who gets away from him but is tackled by Emiliano Boffelli. The Sharks rally, get the ball back and clear to touch.

If the ball or ball-carrier touches a corner flag or corner flag post without otherwise being in touch or touch-in-goal, play continues unless the ball is grounded against the post.

It was right that play was allowed to go on.

This relatively new law, changed in 2014. Before that Law 22.11 (a) read: When the ball touches the corner post, the ball becomes dead.

4. Hurricanes vs Blues

55 minutes: simultaneously?

Mark Telea, the Blues left wing, is hurtling for the goal-line as West Goosen comes across in defence. Telea dives, ball in right hand. Goosen dives. Telea grounds the ball over the goal-line. The referee consults his assistant and the TMO and then awards the try.

Telea clearly grounds the ball with his right hand. The difficulty is his left forearm, for the forearm makes contact with the touchline just before the corner post.

If Telea grounds the ball before his left forearm touches the touchline, it is a try.
If the left forearm touches the touchline before Telea grounds the ball, it is a lineout, the Hurricanes to throw in.
And if the two actions are simultaneous?

4. When an attacking player holding the ball grounds the ball in in-goal and simultaneously makes contact with the touch-in-goal line or the dead-ball line (or anywhere beyond either), a 22-metre drop-out is awarded to the defending team.
5. When the ball-carrier grounds the ball in in-goal and simultaneously makes contact with the touchline (or the ground beyond), the ball is in touch in the field of play and a lineout is awarded to the opposition.

If it had been simultaneous, it would have been a lineout, Hurricanes to throw in.

Judging simultaneously is very much a TMO job but matches with the TMO facility are a tiny proportion of rugby matches. In the vast majority of matches, it will be up to the referee to judge – no easy task without slow-motion replays and varying angles.

Join free

Boks Office | Episode 14 | South Africa v Ireland Review Live

Aotearoa Rugby Podcast | Episode 21

South Africa v England | World Rugby U20 Championship 2024 | Pool C Full Match Replay

Embedded 2024 | England | Episode 3

France v Wales | World Rugby U20 Championship 2024 | Pool A Full Match Replay

Walk the Talk | Brodie Retallick | The King of the Skies

Before They Make It | Ireland

Basta Show | S2 EP 7 | Rabah Slimani

Write A Comment