Babobski's Blog: News and opinions from South Africa and around the world

A South African blog with an international flavour

Stuff the ELV’s…bring back the old rules of rugby

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 Getting back onto Civvy Street after spending two years in the South African Defence Force was an exciting time. U2 had just released The Joshua Tree album and everybody was listening to Radio 5 all day long.

Friday nights were spend at the Grand Hotel in Central, Port Elizabeth drinking Castle Lager with the mates who were either finished their compulsory two year stint of national service, were still busy with it and were on pass, or still had to “klaar in”. Everybody used to feel sorry for the guys who still had to start their time in the “mag”.

There were adjustments to be made as well, when the day came to get back to real life and away from the “sam majoors” and getting up at ridiculous hours of the morning to iron your bed and get ready for inspection.

One of the major shocks was that somebody had decided to change the laws of pool. Suddenly for an ex “troepie” being confronted by mates who ask “Are we playing old rules or new rules?” it was like a “huh” moment. There were always beers on the games and down downs rules that applied so one had to sharp when playing pool, especially after a two year lay off. Instinctively a recently released “dienspligteger” choose old rules just to be on the safe side until you could sidle up to your drunkest mate and try hustle out of him just what the new rules were all about.

Watching rugby these days leaves one with the same quandary as the national servicemen of old faced. There are old rules and new rules in rugby. The new rules go by the name the ELV’s, or Experimental Law Variations. The poor rugby players could end up playing different rules every weekend, depending on what competition is being played Refs have tried to apply the bedazzling array of rules at their disposal consistently with little success while spectators are just getting fed up with the tinkering to their beloved game.

It all fell apart with the changes to the ruck and maul, which to be fair, started before the ELV’s came into being. In the old days of national service and army camps, rugby was quite a simple game. If you had the ball and got tackled you tried to stay on your feet. As supporting and defending players joined the skirmish, a maul was formed. The rolling maul was an integral part of the game and it was illegal for defenders to stop the maul by deliberately collapsing it.

Once the maul went to ground it became a ruck. The purpose of the ruck was to go over the ball and players used to bind together to hit the ruck and secure the ball. This thing of clearing out defending players who are nowhere near the ball would have earned a huge snotklap from Kobus Wiese, Balie Swart, Vleis Visage, Schalk Burger and the likes.

And before the sanitization of rugby began, players trying to slow the ball down by falling over it, ran the risk of being rucked. Hands could be stamped upon, bodies could be rolled out the way with the boot if necessary and that’s how rugby was played. Teams that could ruck well secured good, quick ball. That lay behind the success of the great Northern Transvaal teams in the 1970’s and 1980’s and with the abundance of good possession, Naas Botha became a big name in world rugby.

The All Blacks had a fearsome reputation for rucking and the Springboks were never far behind. If you got caught on the wrong side of a ruck, you took your punishment like a man. It was that straightforward. If a player was stupid enough to get rucked by Colin Meads or Frik Du Preez, you could bet your bottom dollar, it wouldn’t happen again in the game to the same player. Should the IRB (International Rugby Board) change the rules again, it might be in the best interest of rugby to bring back what worked. The breakdown is still a mess and we want it fixed. Ummmm…..old rules please bru………

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