Test referee talks about new school scrumming laws

We had a very informative talk last night on the new laws by Test Referee Stuart Berry. The following are the main points:

1. Crouch, Touch, Set will only be used in Premier Division, 1st Division and professional rugby.
2. All other rugby will be Crouch, Bind, Scrum.
3. For U14 to U16 inclusive – there is not hit. On the “Bind” command, players engage passively with shoulders touching and arms bound. On the “Scrum” call, the ball gets fed immediately and the contest begins.
4. Above U16 (school opens and all club rugby other than mentioned above), “Bind” command means bind arms and align heads ear to ear. “Scrum” – short hit and immediate contest – ball enters on the call. There is no difference between school 1st team, club 2nd division or school 8th team.
5. The first offence for early engagement will be a free-kick (short arm) per team. Thereafter a full penalty. There can be no penalty for pushing after the “Scrum” call.
6. The scrumhalf MUST feed the ball on the “Scrum” call – he gets penalised if he doesn’t – not the scrums for pushing before the feed.
7. Not in straight and foot up will be VERY strict – the thinking is that with the hit gone – this is where teams will try to get an unfair advantage.

Another main point: 1.5m maximum drive in the scrum now applies to ALL rugby where Crouch Bind Scrum is used i.e. all schools, all club other than 1st and premier division. So the only pushover tries we will ever see now will be from a Crouch Touch Set scrum.

Also note: the cadence (timing between the old calls of “crouch, touch, pause, engage) has fallen away. Referees will now vary their calls so that teams don’t anticipate the “scrum” and ball being put in.

On the dangerous tackle:

1. Lift up and deliberately turned past horizontal – yellow card from that point regardless.
2. Red only if followed by a drop or drive into the ground.



  1. @GreenBlooded, Thanks for the feedback and clarity. It is interesting and enlightning. How is this information fed back to the schools and the boys themselves. I fear that all of this is going to detract from the game itself. I agree with a lot of your previous sentiments on this issue.

  2. @Greenblooded: After watching the games last night, one has to assume those that were reffing never attended this talk or are battling to get to grips with the change (especially with regards to point 6).

  3. @GreenBlooded: Thanks for this clarity. I like the clarification regarding the dangerous tackle. Its going to make some great discussions on my photos.

  4. I wonder if there is any place in rugby for the basketball type ejecting of players? So a player is basically removed from the game and can’t return to the field but his team are not reduced to 14 players.

  5. @beet: Had I known you were going to post it as an article I would have made more effort! :mrgreen:

    Just a clarification on Point 1: The Crouch, Touch, Set will be used in the highest club league only. In KZN that is called Premier Division (Moor Cup). In other provinces it may be called First Division but it only applies to the highest division per province.

  6. @NW_Knight: Hmmm – strange because it was only the night before and there was a good turnout. Was it all the refs or only some – maybe one or two missed the talk? If there are problems filtering down the referee ranks then I shudder to think how it is going to filter down to grass-roots coaches.

    I’m sure there are going to be occassions when I ref a school match this season with players expecting crouch, touch, pause, engage!!

    The focus on the straight feed and foot up is where we believe teams will try to get the advantage in the scrums now – since the hit is gone there is not much else to go for. Since the defensive scrum now know EXACTLY when the ball is coming (i.e. on the “Scrum” command) – expect to see more tight-heads.

  7. Last nights game between NW and GC was interesting with the scrum laws , I personally felt the ref let too much go with both teams scrumhalfs delaying the feed and not being penalized, I feel watching the game though that there is still plenty space for big strong front rowers to show there strength at scrum time, brute strength will have to be used in order to get the upper hand on your opposite number not not just being able to get a good hit.
    Just my observations

  8. @Greenblooded: @Beet is right, he is very experienced. But I have to agree with @ZnCoach, he seemed to forget at times that the ball has to go in straight away on scrum. Scrum was often moving already, with the no. 9 standing ball in hand and there was no penalty. I think it’s a matter of the refs having to get used to the fact that this is a reversal of previous laws (i.e. you don’t have to wait for the ball to be in before pushing and the ball must be put in immediately).

    Same occurred in previous games, so it wasn’t isolated.

  9. @ZnCoach: I think you are right and I am (slowly) rethinking my position on the role of big props. With the ball feed clearly known by both teams (if it is reffed right) the advantage will come from a big initial shove on the put-in and you will need some solid hardware to do that with. I’m still very conservative on the whole exercise though – I think it is taking something special away fromt he game. Coaches are going to have to make a paradigm shift when coaching the scrum now – the tricks that worked last year will not work this year and a whole new philosophy will be needed.

    Take pity on the club 2nd team prop who plays Crouch/Bind/Scrum at 2pm and then trots off the bench for the 1st team at 15.30 who are playing Crounch/Touch/Set!!

  10. @GreenBlooded: I feel more sorry for the ref who has a school game in the morning and then Moor Cup in the afternoon. He will need to be very aware of his calls and interpretations.

  11. Imagine if the Ref does under 16,s in the morning and 2nd team later on.

  12. Just a thought. These new scrum laws may just bring back the scrums of old where it was all in the strength of the shove rather than the ridiculous technical advancement of the ‘hit’ and the technique of the bind etc. Maybe we have all misread the upside of this new law? Strength and timing of the 8 forwards rather than the murky prowess of a single prop. Maybe, maybe?

  13. @GreenBlooded: Okay I thought my understanding of what goes up in the scrum was creeping up to Grade 3 level but now with your comment I feel like I’m back in pre-primary. :mrgreen:

    I thought 1st team and 2nd team will both be “Scrum” not “Set”

  14. Here we go- the coming of skinny 50 kg props and even thinner locks and L/fwds. I just cannot imagine the S/half in such a team. Long term? Problems, IMHO!

  15. @All Black: Quite Correct!! Lucky for me I am nowhere near Moor Cup standard so the only time I worry about Crouch/Touch/Set is on TV!!

  16. @beet: Not sure which comment? To clarify:

    Crouch/Touch/Set: Professional rugby. Highest division of club rugby.

    Crouch/Bind/Scrum with mini-hit: All other rugby above U16 level.

    Crouch/Bind/Scrum with no hit: U13 to U16

  17. Odd evening last night. I thought Port Natal improved from last week (although I only saw the last 10 minutes). The next game was at least entertaining. Last game was extremely scrappy, with multiple errors on both sides. Northwood were ill-disciplined at times and gave away far too many penalties. George Campbell had a never say die attitude and kept pressing hard. Particulary impresive was the no 12 for George Campbell – very incisive. The hooker, tall lock (jumper) and no 8 from Northwood were good.

    Not a good game to watch, especially if you’renot really a supporter of either team (I just stay in the area).

  18. @Greenblooded: Obviously some confusion here. In the first scrum last night, NW went in on “scrum” and immediately began pushing. Scrumhalf did not feed the ball and the ref penalised NW for pushing before the ball was in. I asked the adjudicator (who was sitting behind me) and he said that the ball must be in before the contest begins (although he did agree that the scrumhalves are taking far too long and getting away with it).

  19. @NW_Knight: When you say the ‘adjudicator’ – do you mean the ref assessor? It is highly frustrating when we are told to blow a certain way and then others blow another way. I can imagine how annoying it must be for the coaches.

  20. @GreenBlooded: Without being able to hear what the ref was saying from my vantage point, I noticed that on a couple of occasions the refs would stand at the mouth of the scrum in the way of the scrumhalf after the “bind”. This was in order to police the contact. Under the Couch, Touch, Pause, Engage there seemed to a timing to the referees words that assisted the players.

    Under the new rules, is there meant to be a timing between the calls coz it does not seem like this can happen if the ref calls “bind” and then has to step out the way of the scrumhalf before he can call “scrum” or has a school ref now lost the right to stand in that position?

  21. @beet: The previous system of Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage was called “Cadence” – i.e. a constant rhythm throughout the game. We are now told specifically to vary the call – it is no longer called cadence – we move onto the next call once we have established that things are stable. That way the players are taught not to anticipate the “Scrum” command and the consequent ball entry – which will lead to early shoves to get the advantage. We were also told to stand about 2m away from the scrum since there is no longer much to police in the engagement process the idea being to open up the peripheral vision (the further back you stand the more you can see – that’s why there are so many better referees in the stands :mrgreen: ) to watch for things like loosies not bound, interfereing with the scrummie, offside lines etc.

    It is distressing to hear that referees seem to not be blowing to the strict set of guideline we were given only a week ago.

  22. @All Black: Ye it will be a 8 man scrum now and not two big props will make some games more interesting now so teams with more ball skills and smaller players will have a bigger chance.

  23. A example would have been the PRG vs Dale game last year were Dale got pulverised in the scrum ingage part and as a result got hardly any ball and had to rely on some brilliant back to keep them in the game, that game would have been a whole lot of difference if played under these rules.

    Are the rules governing 1st teams this year any different from last year or is it only up to Under16 level that will change.

  24. @Queenian:

    No the rules have changed for all school teams. There isn’t a full engagement hit at any age-group level anymore. The teams only start shoving once the ref calls “scrum” so technically the ball does not have to be in yet for teams to start pushing but at the same time the scrumhalf is obliged to put the ball in immediately when “scrum” is called or get penalised. So scrumhalves no longer control the decision as to when a ball gets fed into a scrum.

    When it’s working smoothly it seems like every scrum will be the equivalent to the old style “quick feed” which benefited small scrums like Dale’s in the past. However I must say that from the bit of 1st XV rugby I’ve watched there appears to be far fewer collapsed scrums, there has definitely been a contest after the ball has been put it and there have even been a few tightheads, so at this stage I can’t see a any advantage to a weaker scrum. The rules are still new though and the loopholes will be found in time I’m sure.


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