Rolling maul in the spotlight
The rolling maul will be in the spotlight this weekend as Sanzar’s refereeing corps have been given express instructions to ensure it is managed properly.
Always a bone of contention among overseas teams, the maul has become the most popular attacking weapon in South Africa’s franchises and there is no doubt that at least four of the five SA franchises employ it almost always as their weapon of choice close to the tryline.
But the email that has gone out this week to Super Rugby franchises and to referees has underlined the legality of the maul, and instructed referees to be strict on the proper enforcement of the law.
In other words, referees will keep a particularly keen eye on the obstruction in setting the maul by the attacking side and then also that the defensive side drives through the middle to get to the ball carrier and does not “swim up the side” of the maul.
With several key clashes in this weekend’s round of Vodacom Super Rugby, there is no doubt the maul should be managed properly but there is a concern that referees may be overzealous in their managing of the maul.
New Zealand sides in particular have been critical of it in the past, with Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett saying at Loftus a few weeks back that if it was up to him, he’d do away with it from rugby in totality.
On Thursday Jamie Joseph told the Otago Daily News that he was interested to see how the maul would be handled after it was highlighted in the email from Sanzar reffing boss Lyndon Bray.
‘‘Generally what happens is you get teams, and let’s say the South African teams are very good at rolling mauls, it’s very hard and they do it slightly illegally by different methods, and then you get coaches and teams finding illegal tactics to try and deal with that,” Joseph said.
But what surprised him most was the timing of the email – coming in round 13 of a 19-round competition.
‘‘The email surprised me that it was in round 13, it’s been going on for a while... I’m glad they are addressing it now. It’s a unique part of rugby, as long as it’s done legally. I’d hate for it to be ruled out and having rules that stop mauling.’’
Joseph’s side will be looking to stop their bad run in this year’s competition at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday where they face the Vodacom Bulls.
‘‘I know the Bulls only do rolling mauls, everytime I’ve played the Bulls then that’s all they’ve tended to do, so we’re going to come up against it and we are going to have to deal with it,’’ Joseph said.
Either way, it is hoped that refs aren’t too strict on it, as it is a weapon SA sides employ particularly well.