Law discussion: Sorting out substitutes
The match between the Bulls and the Jaguares in Pretoria was decided in the last ten minutes. For the Bulls it was suicide rather than simple defeat.
They were leading 20-10 with seven minutes to play, when they were penalised for holding on at a tackle. The Jaguares kicked out but then the TMO advised the referee to examine what else had happened at the tackle. There, for all to see, was Tim Agaba of the Bulls, charging, shoulder first, into the neck and head of Rodrigo Bruini of the Jaguares. The referee yellow carded Agaba.
Then there were 14.
In the next four minutes, Domingo Miotti of the Jaguares scored two tries and the Jaguares led 22-20.
The Bulls kicked off, Bruini jumped for the ball and prop Conraad van Vuuren tackled him in the air and was yellow carded.
Then there were 13.
And there were five minutes to play.
That Van Vuuren was a prop resulted in a long delay when the Jaguares’ flank Pablo Matera passed forward and a scrum was ordered. It took over three minutes before the scrum could be formed and whether or not it should be an uncontested scrum.
Law 3.13 UNCONTESTED SCRUMS
Scrums will become uncontested if either team cannot field a suitably trained front row or if the referee so orders.
The problem was that Van Vuuren was a prop and he had been sent off. He was a substitute/replacement. (There is supposed to be a difference between a substitute, a tactical replacing of one player by another, and a replacement, a replacing of an injured player by another player.) At half-time the Bulls tighthead, Trevor Nyakane, had jogged off but the second half started with a new prop in Nyakane’s place – Conraad van Vuuren.
The referee wanted to know why Nyakane’s had been replaced – whether he was injured or off for an HIA or a blood injury? This related to his eligibility to return to the field.
If Nyakane’s had been replaced because he was injured, he was not allowed to come back.
Law 3.20 An injured player may not return once replaced.
If Nyakane’s had gone off for an HIA test, he was not allowed to come back because the time allowance was up. He had gone off at 48 minutes and this was some 53 minutes (actual time) later.
Law 3. If the player is not available to return to the field of play after 10 minutes (actual time) of leaving the playing area, the replacement becomes permanent.
If Nyakane’s, had been replaced because he was bleeding, he was not allowed to come back because the time allowance was up. He had gone off at 48 minutes and this was some 53 minutes (actual time) later.
Law 20.24 If the player is not available to return to the field of play within 15 minutes (actual time) of leaving the playing area, the replacement becomes permanent.
But if Nyakane’s had been tactically substituted, he would be allowed back as a player trained to play in the front row.
Law 3.32 TACTICAL REPLACEMENTS JOINING THE MATCH
Tactically replaced players may return to play only when replacing:
a. An injured front-row player.
b. A player with a blood injury.
c. A player undertaking an HIA.
d. A player who has just been injured as a result of foul play (as verified by the match officials).
e. The nominated player described in Law 3.19 or 3.20.
The laws referred to in e. above have to do with the front row.
Law 3.19 If a front-row player is temporarily suspended, and the team cannot continue with contested scrums with players already on the field, then the team nominates another player to leave the playing area to enable an available front-row player to come on. The nominated player may not return until the period of suspension ends, or to act as a replacement.
Law 3.20 If a front-row player is sent off, and the team cannot continue with contested scrums with players already on the field, then the team nominates another player to leave the playing area to enable an available front-row player to come on. The nominated player may act as a replacement.
The referee often has help in sorting this out from three other assistants – a timekeeper and assistant referees labelled 4 and 5 who each have a team to regulate the coming and going of players. There was a timekeeper and a 4 and a 5 on the sideline in this match.
The following is an excerpt from World Rugby’s protocol on the management of replacements/substitutions by 4 and 5. Each of those assistants is required to ensure that in looking after each team and ensuring all substitutions are managed in a timely manner and using the correct protocol, he
Receives the replacement/substitution cards from the team manager and checks that it has been fully completed and confirms whether the change is a replacement for injury or a tactical substitution
Involves the match doctor where one is present if matters cannot be resolved
Communicates with the match referee that a player is being replaced or substituted and receives acknowledgement from the referee that this may occur
Ensures that players exiting or entering the field of play do so from the halfway line
In Fifteens, utilises the signal boards for the benefit of spectators
Ensures that a player entering the field of play does not do so until a substituted player starts moving and is clearly identified
Maintains records of replacements and substitutions to ensure compliance with Law
Oh, just two other points. If the scrums are uncontested, there must be eight players scrummaging in each side. But if a prop comes on to make up for Van Vuuren, another player, however innocent, must go off so that the Bulls, in this match, still have only 13 players on the field, which is what the assistant referee was trying to see to.
By Paul Dobson