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Duty Ref 538 - Marius van der Westhuizen

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Marius has been whizzing around the world and has just been in lush Nelspruit, but he still has time to answer questions from, readers.

Just a cautionary word - this forum is to answer questions on the law and its applications. It is not a forum for statements of opinion, gripes and sermons. Those 3 don't go anywhere from here, which means it is a waste of time sending them in.

1. Name: Keegan Gobel

Question: Good Morning.

What would the official ruling be if a try was scored and awarded by a Border referee under the poles and then the field was invaded by the opposition's supporters forcing the referees to leave the field under physical attack and not allowing for the conversion to be made?

Marius van der Westhuizen: Hi Keegan,

That is a good question and something we don’t really want to see in the game. This will be dealt with on-field first and if the correct outcome cannot be reached it will have to be dealt with off the field by the Union.

Let's deal with the first situation on hand, the safety of the players and referees. If all 30 players, the referee and his assistants are safe, the referee will go to the match organiser and establish if it will be safe to return to the field. If it is deemed safe the players can return to the field and continue. If not the match will be abandoned. The matter can then be referred to disciplinary committee and action can be taken against the team there. I was involved in a club game a couple of years ago where the team lost the log points for that game and were suspended for the rest of the season because they could not control their crowd. I hope this answers your question.

2. Name: Luyolo Keli

On the 80th minute, team Blue gets a penalty and they kick straight for touch then they go for line-out but Blue 2 ( hooker) throws the ball in skew.

Now my question is do you give options or do you end the game after the throw in not straight?

Marius van der Westhuizen: HI Luyolo,

The game cannot end on an unsuccessful restart to the game and the game must team has an option how they want to restart the game. Either by a throw into the line-out or with a scrum on the 15m line. The World Rugby Sevens referee manager Paddy O’Brien asked the same question in 2016. Please see the answer from the World Rugby law committee below.

Following controversy after the Wales vs England match at the Paris Sevens Paddy O’Brien has requested clarification from the designated members on the incident set out below and viewable here which occurred on the weekend of May 14.

With England leading 17 to 12, they had the throw-in to a line-out during which time the hooter went, signalling that time was up. The ball was thrown in, not straight, and the referee called not straight, but as time was up he did not give Wales the scrum and blew for full-time. Below is a Law Clarification made by the Designated Members in 2009 which shows the referee to be correct.

Law Clarification 9: 2009
Situation 1

Despite the Referee being able to delegate responsibility for time keeping the referee is still the sole judge of fact and Law and the game ends with the referee’s whistle.

The scrum has been set in playing time and collapses. The referee is obliged to blow the whistle in accordance with Law 6.A.8 (g). The original scrum has not been completed and has had to be reformed in accordance with Law 20.4 (g) and therefore the match would continue and end at the next stoppage of play in accordance with Law 5.7 (e).

Situation 2
The referee ends the match as there has been an offence that ensures that the ball is dead after the line-out has been completed and therefore the match ends in accordance with Law 5.7 (e).

I would like to ask the current Designated Members to review this law ruling based on the following principles:

The Law book is specific that there are six ways a line-out can end (Law 19.9 (b)), and the ball not being thrown straight is not one of them. It is the coaches’ view, and my view, that the lineout is therefore incomplete and so the match cannot end until the scrum has been awarded, or the non-offending team chooses another lineout with their throw.

If the referee deemed the ball had been deliberately thrown not straight, it is a penalty kick, but on this occasion there was insufficient reason to think that.

In the interests of the game, I would suggest that Law 19.10 be added to read

Law 19.10
Unsuccessful end to a lineout.

A lineout cannot be ended on a crooked throw-in. The non-offending team has an option of another lineout with their team to throw in or a scrum 15 metres in through the line of touch.

Clarification in Law by the Designated Members of the Rugby Committee
The Designated Members have reviewed this request for clarification and the interpretation above is correct.

3. Name: Steve Pearce

: Hi Duty Ref - do you agree with the analysis in the Laws section, regarding Law 14 Ball on the Ground

Marius van der Westhuizen: Hi Steve, unfortunately, we are having copyright issues with our videos on the website at the moment. Supersport are in the process of dealing with this on our behalf. However, what I can say, a lot of time and research goes into those law discussions and after reading that it makes total sense to me. We can address this again once the video section is up and running.

4. Bennie Noch

What does not held mean? You see often a player tackled by an opponent holding him. The player goes to ground with the player still holding him. The tackler releases his grasp, the tackled player gets up and the referee shouts: "Not held."

What does held mean?

Marius van der Westhuizen: Hi Bennie,

This is a part of the game that is very difficult to judge purely because of the speed that it all happens at. What I am prepared to say is that we as referees are not as consistent in this application as we should be.

Please see the definition of a tackle.

“A tackle occurs when the ball carrier is held by one or more opponents and is brought to ground.”

What I take from this. I still need to hold you the moment that you/we go to the ground. BUT after that, I have to release you as the law then clearly instructs me to release you.

I think the law is written this way to encourage the game to continue when the player was good enough to wriggle himself out of the contact situation before he goes the ground.

It is a split second difference whether the tackle was completed or not. That is why we are seeing some inconsistent applications of this.

By reading law 15 this should shed some light on the topic.

Hope this makes sense.


5. Name: Mike Greyling

There are two key laws which, as far as I can, tell referees consistently ignore in the 15 man game. I am interested to know if there is some directive outside the laws which brings this about. Firstly the maul. The law requires only 3 players to form a maul, but referees will wait a seemingly long random time before calling it so.

Often 3 or 4 players from either side are bound together with the ball in the air and when it collapses the referee immediately calls "tackle release." How is it that the same referees then blow the law correctly in the 7 man game. 15.2 WHEN A TACKLE CANNOT TAKE PLACE When the ball carrier is held by one opponent and a team-mate of the ball carrier binds on to that ball carrier, a maul has been formed and a tackle cannot take place.

The second issue involves players on the offensive side arriving at a ruck formed after the tackle, or who clean out a player attempting to collect the ball. Defensive players are strictly penalised if they do not do so from behind the ruck (side entry) but players from the tackled side are allowed to enter from any angle.

I realise that the concept of "cleaning out" is not well defined in the laws but I cannot find any clear distinction between what is required of "other players" from the attacking and defensive side in either the ruck or the tackle laws.

Marius van der Westhuizen: Hi Mike,

You make a good point about the maul. What I do see a lot is that an attacking player gets his knee on the ground before the maul forms and then we need to referee a tackle regardless if the maul forms after that. I do however see some inconsistencies in the way that is refereed worldwide and I would suggest that is not refereed as strictly as in the Sevens game because the referee has more management responsibility in a fifteens game.

The sevens game is in very good shape at the moment and it is an acceptable norm to have between 8 and 10 Penalties in a game. If we take that back to the fifteens game, I am not so sure the public will be happy with 50 to 60 penalties in a Fifteens game, where the acceptable norm is between 18 and 22

On the attacking side entries, That is something that we are continuously trying to improve. It is a very difficult thing to see as the referee's main focus is on the tackler to start with. But I take your point. The game needs to be refereed in the same way for both sides.

Two very good observations Mike. Keep them coming.


6. Name: Mzoxolo Sotyana

how do you become a good rugby referee?

Marius van der Westhuizen: Hi Mzoxolo.

I would say the first thing is to start with the basics, 1. Very good law knowledge, 2. good fitness, 3. good understanding of the game 4. Get as much experience as possible. Last but not least, Know why you are becoming a referee, It is to serve the game and not be the centre of attraction.

Hope this helps.


7. 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?

Marius van der Westhuizen: Hi Shane,

That is a good question and was asked at our workshop as well. The answer, in short, is Yes - there needs to be a tackle.

Please, see this video from World Rugby explaining the tackle. I believe this will answer all the questions you have asked. If not please contact us again


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