Naas Botha. Picture: SUPPLIED
Naas Botha. Picture: SUPPLIED

Now more than ever rugby’s legislators have the responsibility to make the game more attractive‚ say former Springbok captain Naas Botha and former Lions coach Swys de Bruin.

The two say rugby has the opportunity to look within and do everything it can to attract people when it fully emerges from its hiatus.

“I like any law change that is going to make for quicker ball with which to attack. With respect‚ I don’t like it when defence-minded teams run the show in the way they have‚” said De Bruin.

The coach pointed to developments Down Under where the game has restarted with useful law variations that have speeded it up.

“I quite like what they are doing in Australia at the moment‚” said De Bruin. “When the attacking team takes the ball over the goalline but don’t score‚ there is no 5m scrum. Instead, the defending team has to drop in from the goalline and they are not allowed to drop the ball out.

“From there you can plan an amazing attack. It means the attacking team gets the ball back and they resume their attack immediately. In other words‚ you don’t get all those boring scrum resets‚” De Bruin said.

“It wastes so much time‚” noted De Bruin before he recalled how richly his former team benefited from scrums. “Scrumming is important. At the Lions we had a helluva pack, and Balie Swart drilled them into a winning unit. That helps you no end‚ but I believe the scrum and the maul cannot be allowed to dominate the game.”

In his playing days Botha also profited from the Bulls’ almost inbred ability to put the squeeze on the opposition at scrum time.

He also advocates the speeding up of the game to help give it broader appeal.

“Make the ball the offside line instead of the hindmost feet‚” said Botha. “On defence‚ certainly have the hindmost feet as the offside line.

“If, however, I have a chance of winning the ball quickly, the law says I have to go from behind. That kills the game because it leads to penalties that just serve to stop the game.”

Botha has watched developments Down Under with interest. “In those first couple of games in New Zealand we saw penalty on penalty on penalty. A lot of those were breakdown penalties and that’s why I say‚ make the breakdown simpler.”

He has another breakdown-related bugbear. “Also‚ when you get tackled you have to get an opportunity to place the ball. Often we see the first player to arrive after the tackle puts his hands on the ball before the tackled player gets a chance to place the ball.

“The tackled player then gets pinned for not releasing. The law says the tackled player must place the ball immediately but if that player doesn’t get the opportunity he should not be penalised‚” argued Botha.

De Bruin believes the viewing public would not mind seeing matches with ballooning scorelines. “I think people would much rather watch a 60-45 than a 10-9 scoreline. You need those grinding games, but people generally want to watch more of a spectacle‚” said De Bruin.

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