Clip 1 - 24 September 2018 - Law 15

It started with a rare occurrence.

Griquas are attacking the Free State goal-line when the Free State win a turnover. Scrumhalf Rudy Paige passes back to flyhalf Ernst Stapelberg who, from well behind his goal-line, seems to be trying a left-footed, diagonal kick to his right.

The ball strikes an upright and rebounds into the Free State in-goal where Abongile Nonkontwana of the Free State gathers the ball and forces his way over the goal-line into the field of play, no doubt to avoid a five-metre scrum.

A tackle ruck forms about a metre infield from the goal line. The ball is coming back to Free State when Zak Burger, the Griqua scrumhalf, dives on the ball.

There follows an interesting conversation between the referee and the TMO. The referee explains the advice he needs.

Referee: "I just want to see if the ball has reached the goal-line because if it has, the player [Burger] is allowed to dive there and ground it. If it has not reached the line, he has entered the breakdown from the side."

Replays show the ball emerging with the help of Paige's hand. It shows that when Burger dived on the ball it was a couple of centimetres short of the goal-line but his diving on it had taken it onto the goal-line.

The TMO told the referee that the ball had not reached the goal-line when Burger dived on it. The referee then penalised Burger.

What is the point of before the goal-line and on the goal-line?

Law 15.1: A ruck can take place only in the field of play.

Law Definition

Field of Play: The area between the goal-lines and the touchlines. Those lines as not part of the field of play.

There you have it.

  • If the ball had not left the field of play by reaching the goal-line, the ruck still existed.
  • If the ball had reached the goal-line, it had left the field of play and the ruck ceased to exist.

When Burger played the ball, it was still a ruck. And so the referee penalised Burger for being offside.

Just a couple of related questions.


11. Once a ruck has formed, no player may handle the ball unless they were able to get their hands on the ball before the ruck formed and stay on their feet.

Paige was handling the ball - before Burger dived. It would seem that the Cheetahs could have been penalised.

Then, where Burger infringed was less than a metre from the Cheetahs' line.


1. The mark for a penalty or free-kick must be in the field of play and be no closer than five metres from the goal-line.

In this case, the penalty was awarded five metres from the Cheetahs' goal-line, as the law prescribes.

This is a change of law, it seems. Previously, the Law 21.2 stated: The kicker must take the penalty or free kick at the mark or anywhere behind it on a line through the mark. If the penalty or free kick is within 5 metres of the opponents' goal-line, the mark for the kick is 5 metres from the goal-line, opposite the place of infringement.

This penalty is 99 metres from the opponents' goal-line! advert