You have our backing to get stuck in
Referees have been instructed to take a 'responsible approach' to illegal tactics at the maul.
This follow the revelation of an Email instruction from SANZAR Game Manager Lyndon Bray to all match officials to be more vigilant at a tactic that has been employed with great success by South African teams.
The Email, which was also sent to all 15 Super Rugby coaches and team managers, have caused a bit of a stir among New Zealand teams * with Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph questioning the timing of the instruction to match officials.
He told the Otago Daily Times that he was "surprised" it arrived only after Round 13.
Bray's communication with the referees and coaches also outlined the legal ways to approach a rolling maul - on both attack and defence.
"We are not asking that you suddenly this weekend bang a whole lot of 'obstruction PKs' [penalty kicks] against the attacking team," Bray said.
"BUT, if a team does not listen to the requests, and does not take notice of your management around these maul issues, then you have our backing to get stuck in!"
Bray admitted in his Email that teams have a very valid argument about the fact that match officials have all let the maul compliance 'get away' from them.
"What we are looking for is a more urgent management at maul time: be more proactive and be happy to PK when you need to.
"The coaches want better compliance, so we have their backing to get on top of the defensive and attacking issues."
Bray, who told his match officials that they have done a 'pretty good job' so far this year, forwarded clips with examples of illegal tactics to both coaches and referees.
He asked for more 'consistency' when refereeing these issues.
Among the points highlighted in the instruction to officials are:
* Jumpers in the line-out 'releasing the ball' to the player at the back of the "maul" too early (i.e, they have not yet hit the ground and the maul is not legally formed, and
* in some cases we are getting a single lifter bringing the jumper down with the ball, directly behind them (effectively blocking the defence).
* early binding onto the support players of the jumper, causing the jumper and lifters to travel backwards before the jumper is on the ground, and
* too many defenders, once the maul is in action, working their way around from the outside of the maul, disconnecting and getting onto the ball carrier at the back of the maul (commonly called "swimming" around).
Bray said they want referees to maintain a 'clear and obvious' approach.
They need to ensure:
* Jumpers are more compliant with their timing of the handing back of the ball,
* No direct obstruction by a lifter in front of the jumper,
* No early binding and drive by defending team, and
* Better compliance to the "through the middle" picture/break away if you become disconnected off the side of the maul.
By Jan de Koning