Watson encouraged by new refereeing of laws

The strict application of law in four key areas has seen a decline in the number of reset scrums and kicks in general play as well as an increase in tries, says Andre Watson, the South African Rugby Union’s manager of referees.

A review of the first round of the Varsity Cup matches and of pre-season Super 14 warm-up matches has provided encouraging signs for a new refereeing focus.

“There is no way we have enough evidence to reach any definitive conclusions, but the early signs are interesting,” said Watson.

“Referees are focusing on strictly applying the laws in four areas to free up the ball and if what we have seen so far is continued through the season, we will have achieved our desired aims.

“I want to make it clear that no laws have changed; they have just been more correctly applied, played and coached.”

Watson said the impact had been significant when comparing the first round of the Varsity Cup in 2010 with the first round of 2009:

– Reset scrums declined from seven per game to 2.8 per game – a reduction of 60per cent

– Kicks in general play declined from 48.5 kicks per game to 32.3 per game – a reduction of 33per cent

– Total tries for the round rose from 12 to 30 – a 250per cent increase.

“It is way too early to use this evidence to say that the changes have had the desired results but at least they appear to be pointing in the right direction,” he said.

Watson reiterated that the four key areas where the Laws were being more strictly applied were:

Tackle – tackler to release IMMEDIATELY and roll away or get back on his feet.

Scrums – correct engagement, correct binding and straight body positions.

Off side in general play – players to stand still until put onside as per law.

Observe for obstruction at kick offs and line outs prior to a maul forming.

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