Heinz Schenk
2 minute read
5 Jan 2017
3:10 pm

Explained: The new rugby laws for 2017

Heinz Schenk

World Rugby announced new rules late last year that are now in effect in the new year. This is what you need to know.

Rasta Rasivhenge, SA's top ref, won't have to preside over uncontested scrums anymore. Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images.

Rugby has never been an easy sport to understand, especially since the numerous laws are changed each year.

It’s unlikely then that the casual fan will ever really be on top of all the rules.

Also read: Johan Goosen’s French club wants him criminally charged

Yet if there’s one thing World Rugby, the sport’s governing body, seems to understand it’s that they can perhaps compensate for confusion by making play quicker and more attractive.

And if the Lions – with Elton Jantjies and Lionel Mapoe at the heart – continue to thrill with their attacking rugby, the laws will certainly suit them.

These are 2017 most notable changes:

Law 5 – Time

The attacking team can now kick a penalty into touch after the clock has ticked past 80 minutes.

That means a side can set up an attacking line-up closer to the tryline without fearing that the referee will blow his whistle to end the game.

It’s also an attempt to crack down on defending teams slowing down the dying moments by conceding penalties on purpose.

Law 8 – Advantage

This could be a really fun one.

An attacking team is now allowed to pick the penalty spot they believe gives them the best chance of scoring points.

For example, the Sharks are 25 m away from the tryline on the left touchline when the Cheetahs concede a penalty.

The scrumhalf takes a quick tap and the Sharks progress to 22 m away closer to the middle of the field.

The referee decides there wasn’t enough advantage. Earlier, he’d take the attacking side back to the 25 m mark.

But now, the attacking captain can insist on the 22 m mark because it’s a better position to attack from.

Law 9 – Scoring methods

When an attacking side is awarded a penalty try, it automatically counts seven points.

There’s no need to take the conversion in front of the posts.

The change to this law is merely to speed up the game and not waste time with a conversion.

Law 3 – The number of players

Another law that will please the Lions, who pride themselves on their powerful scrum.

There will be no more uncontested scrums.

All scrums must be played with 16 players – 8 from each side.

Sides previously complained uncontested scrums undermined their strength in that aspect.

And that makes sense because why should a team with a dominant scrum pay the price for their opponent’s yellow cards or injuries?

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