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Duty Ref 537 - Lourens van der Merwe

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Lourens van der Merwe, a science teacher at Grey College in Bloemfontein, is also a Test referee. At present, while refereeing actively, he is training to become a TMO. And he has time to answer readers' questions.

1. Name: Shane Kennedy

I have a question about whether under the new definition of a ruck, a tackle must have occurred or not. The new definition says: "A ruck commences when at least one player is on their feet and over the ball which is on the ground (tackled player, tackler)." Without the parenthetical, a player could create a ruck and offside line by stepping over a ball which is bouncing around in open play. Or a player could create a ruck by placing the ball on the ground, and potentially put chasing defenders offside. Can a ruck occur only at a tackle, or also in open play? Also, where is the offside line for the team who has not brought a player into the ruck?

Lourens van der Merwe: Hi Shane,

It's great to see that you are thinking about the game and the consequences of such a law application. This law application was changed to prevent the absurd scenario that happened in the England vs Italy game. Italy never committed to form a ruck, and so the back line went "offside" and stood amongst the England backs.

To answer your question, yes this application is applicable only when a tackle occurred. If a player voluntarily goes to ground and his team-mate just steps/stands over him, it's still general play. A ruck will form only when an opposition player arrives; the law hasn't changed.


2. Name: Bruce Driver

In the Brumbies vs Hurricanes quarterfinal, 2017, at 7:15 mins, first half - there's a great clip possibility (line-out) for your excellent SA Referees You Tube Channel. (Under the Laws, How on earth is the receiver of the line-out throw onside? Or even close to onside?)

Lourens van der Merwe: Hi Bruce,

Thanks for your question as this is an interesting one.

As per Law 19.9 (b), the line-out is over when the ball is thrown beyond the 15m line. Obviously this was a set move by the Hurricanes, and so when the hooker threw the ball, the wing broke the 10m offside line in order to catch the ball. May the Brumbies backline then also do the same and break the 10m off side Line? Yes of course!


3. Name: Brendan Wainwright

Hi there, is there a minimum amount of time that must be played for a match to be deemed a complete match. For example in cricket it is 20 overs per side, in rugby if a match is stopped at 35 minutes, 50 minutes, 65 minutes or 70 minutes for whatever reason (fighting, injury, foul weather). At what point is it deemed that a match has been completed and that the current score will stand and below which amount of time is it regarded as an abandoned match with no score?

Lourens van der Merwe: Hi Brendan,

This has to do with regulations - local ways of running a local competition. The laws of the game are about how the game is played, that is what happens on the field when players are playing. The laws do not deal with how the game is not played. That is for regulations.


4. Name: Douglas Ross

The Lions vs Crusaders game, before the Crusaders first try. After Jantjies is tackled and the ball lost forward, the ball hits a Crusaders player's legs and bounces against a player in front of him (according to angle on replay). Is this accidental offside? Or should the offside player touch the ball with his arms?

Lourens van der Merwe: Hi Douglas,

Well spotted! According to Law 11.6 (a) the player is deemed to be accidentally offside if he cannot avoid being touched by the ball or the ball-carrier. This is exactly what happened in the Lions vs Crusaders incident you referred to.

Take note, the law states further that, if this player's team gain no advantage from this, play continues.

If the player's team gained an advantage, a scrum is ordered in favour of the opposing team.


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