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Like many men, I have always considered myself something of a rugby aficionado.
And why shouldn’t I be? I have spent countless hours studying the sport with fellow lovers of the game. Over the years, I have always tried to keep abreast of all the rules and rule changes.
This is not an easy task but one, which I am proud to say, I have achieved with reasonable success. Or so I thought. Over the past few seasons, I have completely lost track of the rules governing the scrums and the way referees interpret these rules.
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I have always been under the impression that a scrum was a way to restart the game after one team made a mistake, but to restart it in such a way that the team which made the mistake, has the opportunity to contest for possession and, thus, make amends for their mistake.
This is no longer the case. It turns out that nowadays every scrum is a precursor to a penalty. And every “scrum penalty” won is celebrated with the same vigour as winning the Currie Cup.
Surely, the intention of the scrum laws was never to convert every scrum into a penalty, yet this is exactly what is happening. No matter whether it’s a head popping out of a scrum, someone slipping, a slight scrumming in by a prop, hell, even a loose shoelace and up goes the referee’s arm, penalty!
This is followed by high fives and kisses and hugs and slaps on the backside. How the referees decide who must be penalised, is the biggest mystery of all.
The commentators, who are supposed to be the most knowledgeable of all, are also speechless until the referee gives some obscure signal, after which they mumble something about a wrong bind or a knee on the ground.
Sometimes, the team pushing forward is awarded the penalty and, at times, they are ones penalised. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear the referees are making this up as they go along.
Even the guys on the field have to look at the referee to see who’s getting penalised.
Now, if the players don’t even know what’s going on, how can us supporters?