Boks face nemesis All Blacks on Saturday at Ellis Park, which was aptly coined “house of pain” by then tenants Orlando Pirates during the era of the late Zodwa Khoza. (May her Soul rest in Peace).
Back to the game, the ploy – which often looks like competing in the lineout, but is actually illegal – happens when an opposition lock waits for the Springbok jumper – in most cases Eben Etzebeth – to take the ball, and on his way down wraps his arms around him, or alternatively falls onto the shoulders of the supporting lock.
Other than playing the player in the air, the opposition player comes down on the side of the Springboks, often stopping them from forming the maul they so want to.
Not only is this illegal, but it is also not being picked up often enough by referees across the board. While there are debates about the legality of the maul, as a current part of the rules, the Boks have become masters at using it to their advantage.
Referees already have enough trouble looking at players “swimming up” the side of the maul, and creating what they call “speed bumps” to stop the maul from forming. Often players are allowed to come up the side and not to the middle to get to the back of the maul, but referees have become rather streetwise at times to this.
Another tactic is to lift the jumper’s legs when he is down on the ground, thereby stopping momentum for the maul, and allowing the defence to create a buffer and force the attacking side to use the ball and not continue to maul.
But it is illegal, and while it is picked up from time to time, it is happening far too often for comfort, with the Boks becoming ever more frustrated at the referees’ inability to pick up these indiscretions.
Saturday’s referee is Nigel Owens, who is known to be a lot stricter than other refs, and it is only hoped that he – with the help of his assistant referees – will police this aspect.
Whether that benefits our boys it matters not, or kanjani?
Winning this game is all but important and winning the cup is only secondary. Amen!