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Marius JonkerThis year, the International Rugby Board has introduced 11 law trials that will be implemented from the start of the 2013 season.

Seven of these have a bearing on play and most of them are designed to make the game faster, with less time wasted, and so improve the overall spectator experience.

Extensive global research involving players, coaches, referees and on-field trials took place before the trials were introduced, according to Andre Watson, GM Referees at SARU.

“An example of this was the extended powers afforded to Television Match Officials (TMOs) during last season’s Absa Currie Cup,” said Watson. “This will be trialled worldwide this season with a view to it becoming Law in 2014,” said Watson.

“Some of the new law variations we will use in South Africa this season, were used by the Springboks during the Castle Outgoing Tour in November 2012.”


New law variations in 2013 in South Africa:

Five seconds at the ruck

When the ball becomes available at a ruck, the referee will call “use it” and the scrumhalf then has five seconds to clear the ball by passing or running it. This will speed up play by not allowing the team in possession to slow it down, and giving the defenders less time to set up their defensive structures and the attackers the opportunity to be more creative.


Three-word scrum call

The four-step engagement call has now been shortened in senior rugby to ‘crouch-touch-set’.

The word ‘set’ is shorter and quicker to say than ‘engage’ and is expected to produce better timing and adherence by the front rows. The removal of the spoken ‘pause’ does not take away the actual pause, as the two front rows are expected to remain stationary and still before engaging on the ‘set’ call. At amateur age-group levels, additional modifications have been introduced to minimise the risk of the ‘hit’ at engagement and collapsed scrums, and improve the safety of the players.


Quick throw-in

The non-offending team may now take a quick throw-in from anywhere between their corner post and where the lineout would take place.


Additional powers for the TMO

The expanded TMO functionality includes identifying foul play, and clear and obvious infringements in the last two phases before a try is scored. All officials (the referee, assistant referees and TMO) are allowed to initiate a referral and make recommendations.


Other modifications include:

• Increasing the squad to 23 players for international matches, with specialist replacements for each of the three front-row positions.
• The reintroduction of a stud on the front of the boot (this was banned in the 1980s).
• Allowing players to wear GPS units on the field.
• Allowing women to play with long tights.
• Stipulating that conversion kicks to be taken within 90 seconds of scoring a try.
• The option of choosing a scrum when the opposition knocks on or throws forward and the ball goes into touch.
• If a team is awarded a penalty or free kick in the lineout, they have the option of taking the lineout again without having to kick for touch.


The new 2013 Law books are available online from for R100 including VAT and postage in South Africa.

10 Responses to Law variations in use in South Africa in 2013

  • 1

    “If a team is awarded a penalty or free kick in the lineout, they have the option of taking the lineout again without having to kick for touch”
    this will save some time, what is the point in kicking again if you are already 5 meters from the opponents try line?

  • 2

    I like the changes. The scrum rules do take getting used to, but in the 2 Lions challenge matches, I thought there were less collapsed scrums.

  • 3

    These law changes designed to make the game more of a spectacle and attempt to be safer and probably fairer too, but this constant tinkering with the laws doesn’t make it easy to follow at times especially when you are getting to grips with the changes early on and the ref is not blowing consistently. Interesting to see the 23 player squad with 3 front row players rule only applies to international rugby in SA as I thought it would apply to Super rugby and domestic competitions as well as it has here up north.

  • 4

    2 @ Lion4ever:
    Hi Lion4ever thats good if you’ve been able to see some benefit of the law changes already, but guess the scrum will only become clearer as the season goes on, it may help with fewer collapses or it could have just been coincidence in the two games. I guess a lot depends on how evenly matched the packs are or whether it is part of a teams tactics to try and collapse scrums.

  • 5

    Glad to see extra powers to TMO and also the time limit for kicking conversions although has there not always been a limit on this time anyone know if so what it was. Interesting they allowing front stud on boot again should be ok if reffed properly but could this lead to some tough consequences of ‘unintentional’ rucking, does that stud benefit scrumming making it easier to stay on your feet? One that will take some getting used to for spectators and the players is the option of taking a scrum for a ball passed forward or knocked on into touch instead of lineouts, this potentially reduces the amount of lineouts in a game and favours the team with a weaker lineout, if your scrum is solid enough it will be far better to go for a defensive scrum than risk ball being stolen by opposition lineout if your jumpers not as good or your hooker doesn’t always through in straight, BUT does it not take longer for a scrum than a lineout so would the unintended result of this law change mean less time for play?

  • 6

    The 5 seconds at the ruck rule – does this in any way influence the driving mail?

  • 7

  • 8

    6 @ Gena_ZA:
    I think perhaps in an indirect way Gena, perhaps teams that are good at employing the maul may use it more now as a tool to slow the game down as the ball has to be used quicker now when it become available at the base of a ruck.

  • 9

    @ Bullscot:
    There was a marked difference in the scrums. But it will be interesting to see as the season progresses if it does limit the collapsed scrums.

  • 10

    @ Gena_ZA:

    to my understanding this wont affect the rolling maul as there is already a time limit as to when the attacking team must play the ball.
    Rolling mauls are used predominantly off lineouts – whereas a ruck is formed at a breakdown in play ie collapsed maul or defensive tackle. the 5 sec rule is a huge plus for spectators IMO as it will speed up the game and the result be more running rugby (9,10 and 12 will be more creative).



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