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Super Rugby: Law Changes for 2017
The Super Rugby season is just around the corner and rugby punters will soon have a plethora of oval-balled action to sink their teeth into. While Super Rugby offers an extremely lucrative cash flow for the seasoned punter, it would be prudent to take a look at some of the law changes made by the IRB, and how these amendments will affect betting.
We’ll take a look at the four new laws and how these will influence rugby betting in 2017 below:
*Laws are numbered according to how they appear in the IRB's law book.
Law 3: Uncontested Scrums (Number of Players)
The days of the uncontested scrums are numbered, which will warm ex-front rower’s hearts no-end. Teams who find themselves a player short due to a red or yellow card will no longer be able to scrum with seven men against eight. Teams will be also forced to bring on a specialist scrummager should one of their front-rowers succumb to injury or be sent off as there will no longer be the option of having an uncontested scrum.
So let’s say Beast gets sent off for the Sharks and a knock on occurs and the Sharks bring on a new front rower. While in the past, the Sharks would have been able to field at pack of seven at the subsequent scrum, the Natalians will now be forced to number up with their opposition meaning one of the backs will have to come into the scrum so as to ensure an eight versus eight contest.
This could have a massive bearing on the amount of points that are conceded by a team who are left a player short due to a red or yellow card, as one of the backline members will be forced to join the scrum. While this has often happened in the past, where a struggling pack has been forced to throw a winger on the side of the scrum, it wasn’t the status quo with heavier packs often opting to go into the set piece a man light, so as to ensure their backs numbered up with the oppositions skinnies. This rule change will ultimately open up more space for the outside backs to run into, which should translate into the side enjoying numerical superiority racking up points.
Law 8.1: Advantage
Rugby fans have been baying for this alteration for a few years now and we’re finally going to see it implemented. In the past, captains were often left, with arms aloft, pleading with a referee to award the penalty on one of the more kickable marks where an infringement had occurred only for the man with the whistle to march over to the spot where the final infringement, during a specific phase of play, had occurred and tell the captain: ‘this is your mark skipper’. This will no longer be the case, however, with captains being offered the option to choose to take a penalty from any of the marks where an infringement had occurred. This will also be quite a handy innovation for your quick thinking scrum halves such as TJ Perranara, who will be able to take full advantage of this amendment with their quick tap and goes.
So let’s say the Lions are first awarded advantage in the centre of the field forty metres out from their opponents try line. They’re then awarded a new advantage, near their opponents 22 but right next to the right-hand touchline. Having a left-footed goal kicker in Elton Janjties makes the conversion from the right-hand side a much more daunting prospect than from 40 metres out but right in front of the poles. Lions captain Warren Whiteley then opts to take the penalty infront of the poles, 40 metres out, despite the final penalty advantage being awarded further up the field next to the right-hand touchline. This makes it easier for Janjties to convert the penalty.
You can expect teams with a long range goal kicker to benefit significantly from this as they will be able to choose from a multitude of spots to take a shot at goal from.
Law: 19 Touch and Lineout
This rule is already effectively in play - excuse the poor pun - but there were a few moments where referees were left with egg on their face last year. The amendment is simple enough on paper, stating: A player who is attempting to bring the ball under control is deemed to be in possession of the ball.
It’s been a bit of a minefield to adjudicate in the past, however, with players juggling the ball whilst trying to keep it in play getting away with what will now be deemed as a lineout to the opposition.
A player whose feet are yet to hit the plain of touch can still throw or pass the ball into a player before touching the ground which will result in play continuing and not in a lineout to the opposition. However, should a player lose control of the ball or juggle it whilst touching the ground, he will be deemed to have taken the ball into touch and a lineout will be awarded to the opposition.
We’re likely to see this one cost a few sides some vital metres but it won’t affect the betting side of things too greatly.
Law 9 - Scoring Methods
This is probably the simplest to understand of all the new laws. Teams will no longer have to kick a conversion after a penalty try has been scored with seven points being awarded automatically. This law has already been implemented on the Sevens circuit and has received rave reviews.
Say the Bulls are on the opposition five-metre line and the opposing front row keeps bringing the scrum down and the ref decides enough is enough and awards a penalty try. Seven points will now be instantly awarded to the Bulls instead of Handre Pollard having to add the extra two points from the tee.
This could prove to be a huge coup for overs points punters who won’t have to worry about a kicker stepping up to convert in order for two points to the scoreboard. It will also help speed up the game, leaving more time for points to be scored.
Dangerous Tackle Law Changes
These amendments deserve a whole section to themselves as they’re likely to be the most influential on the punting front.
The IRB have stated that a player is deemed to have made reckless contact should the player know or should have known that he would be at risk of making contact with an opponent's neck or head. This includes a tackler sliding up the tackle. If a player began below the shoulder line but slid up above the neck then they will still be penalised and carded for making the contact. This also applies to cleaning out at a ruck where any contact around the head and neck area will be deemed a card-able offence, regardless of intent.
Let’s say Chiefs man Damien McKenzie, who is extremely short, runs at the oak tree-sized Lood de Jaeger, but ducks into the tackle. In past seasons this would have been a penalty at worst with referees citing Lood’s stature and McKenzie’s duck as the reason for the high contact. That will change in 2017 with de Jaeger being carded if he had to make a hit like that.
The days of players bashing heads in off the ball incidents are set to become a thing of the past with referees set to aggressively stamp out any off the ball contact. This will mainly come into play at ruck time with cleaners being carded for making contact, even if it is accidental, with an opponents head or neck. This will also see the case of ‘falling into the tackle’ final cleared up with players being penalised for making high contact regardless of if the tackled player slipped into the tackle or not.
We are likely to see a whole host of cards dished out during the early rounds of the tournament with players having to adapt their tackling and cleaning techniques.