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Hold your horses: This ain't rugby

OPINION: @rugby365 columnist and two-time World Rugby Junior Championship winner Eugene Eloff takes a look at the impact of the proposed law trials.


Eloff, also the Managing Director of Elite Sport Mentorship, tapped into the collective wisdom of some seasoned coaches, referees and players within the industry to get lowdown on the changes.

These temporary law trials – relating to the scrum, tackle, ruck and maul – aim to reduce individual cumulative exposure to these contact activities.

World Rugby announced these law trials on Thursday and they will be in effect when the game resumes in the various countries around the globe from next month!

(Continue reading below … )

World Rugby law trials


Purpose of a Scrum and Maul

The purpose of a scrum is to restart play with a contest for possession, after a minor infringement or stoppage.


The purpose of a maul is to allow players to compete for the ball, which is held off the ground. A maul can take place only in the field of play. It consists of a ball-carrier and at least one player from each team, bound together and on their feet. Once formed, a maul must move towards a goal line.


When William Webb Ellis decided to pick up a ball and run with it’, RUGBY was born and it was full-contact.

It was a great game and players loved the contact part of it. It was pure fun!

Spectators enjoy the spectacle, especially the contact and tries.

From the game of Rugby Union few other codes, played with an oval-shaped ball, originated – such as American Football, better known as Gridiron, Rugby League and Aussie Rules Football, also known as Footy.


“Rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes, with different positions requiring different skillsets – which players of different sizes could fulfil.”

Everyone can and should be able to play the game.

There has even been proposals of more drastic changes than those announced by World Rugby – with no scrums and mauls.

Should we go that extreme route, you will exclude the big, strong and sometimes slower players.

If you look at the Rugby League and Footy, the players are all more and less the same size and absolute athletes with speed and skills.

Sometimes, when there are law changes, I wonder if those decision makers and lawmakers ever played the game.

In saying that, there has been some great law changes in the past – which made the game more safe to play and more spectator friendly.

However, it does not make sense to change such a pivotal, basic laws of the game – unless the lawmakers that are from a certain continent are threatened by the strength of certain countries and want to level the playing field to suit them.

Teams who are recognised for their strong scrumming are Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand and England.

The only rationale could be a temporary adjustment just after the COVID-19 pandemic, but still there will be contact – so it will be an exercise in futility.

I asked a few experts for their opinion regarding the proposed law changes!

Peter de Villiers

FREEK BURGER (World-renowned referee, now retired)

It is still a game of all shapes and sizes. Depowering of scrum will exclude the power of forwards and you will have 30 backline players.

LEON BOSHOFF (Lions & Baby Boks scrum coach)

Its ridiculous. It will change the dynamics of the game. Props and short players will be taken out of the game. There will no longer be physical battles. It will kill the game. Maybe officials need to be upskilled to manage the scrum, have a scrum referee.

NICO DE VILLIERS (Western Province and Baby Boks tighthead – Stormers conditioning coach)

For many years world rugby has been trying to change scrums or scrapping it. Scrums and Mauls are so unique to rugby and part of the values of rugby. That’s why it’s a game for all shapes and sizes. If scrums are removed it will become like League, one size fits all and hookers and props will be taken out of the equation. It will be tragic. Lastly, in all teams the front row forwards are usually the characters and rugby can’t lose those type of players.

SCHALK FERREIRA (WP, Baby Boks and Southern Kings loosehead)

If you take mauls and scrums out of Rugby Union, you are not just changing the game – you are ending it. The whole dynamic will change.

ADRIAN KENNEDY (former Taranaki coach and Stormers assistant)

Scrummaging is the purest contest between two forward packs, measuring pack cohesion, technique, strength and skill for about 12 seconds at a time at various stages in a game of rugby!

* And we simply can’t let this go without that classic quote from former Springbok coach PETER DE VILLIERS: ‘Why don’t we go to the nearest ballet shop, get some tutus and get a dancing shop going? There will be no eye-gouging, no tackling, no nothing, and we will enjoy it.’

To conclude, Rugby IS a CONTACT SPORT.

So let’s keep the contact there, leave the scrums and mauls as they are, maybe improve on coaching and officiating thereof!

By Eugene Eloff

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