Clip 3 - 23 July 2019 - Law 21

Curwin Bosch of the Sharks breaks. He gives a pass to Lwazi Mvovo on the left wing who races ahead before passing inside to No.8 Tera Mtembu. Western Province flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis tackles Mtembu at the line. There is a battle for the ball.

The referee plays advantage in favour of the Sharks and when none accrues he returns to where Mtembu was tackled, sends Justin Phillips of Western Province to the sin bin and penalises Western Province five metres from their line.

The referee, told of the Sharks decision to kick for goal, indicates their intention, saying "Poles." He then walks back to take up a position to see the kick. The assistant referees then go behind the posts.

With the referee and his assistants in position to judge the kick, the Sharks then decide they want the scrum instead. The referee checks this, asking: "You are changing your decision?" He then awards a five-metre scrum, telling the Western Province captain of the change, saying: "They're allowed to change."

Let’s look at what the law says.

Law 8.20: If the team indicates to the referee the intention to kick at goal, they must kick at goal.

"If the team indicates". This is a change from the unabbreviated law. The older one is different as it specifies who tells the referee.

Law 21.5 (b): If the kicker indicates to the referee the intention to kick at goal, the kicker must kick at goal. Once the kicker has made the intention clear, there can be no change of intention.

Was "kicker", is "team". There is no mention of captain. The Sharks on this day had two captains; what if they had each given different decisions?

In this instance, the referee must have been told by a Shark that they were kicking at goal. And the movement that follows suggests that this was initially accepted by the Sharks - until the change came, whatever its origin. It is clear from the referee's action that the decision of the team on the field was to kick at goal.

The decision to kick at goal should have stood. 

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