Clip 5 - 10 March 2017 - Law 10
Jean-Luc du Plessis, the Stormers' flyhalf, kicks left-footed towards the touch line on his left. Piet van Zyl, the Bulls' replacement scrumhalf, tackles Du Plessis at rib height.
The referee decides that the tackle was late and penalises Van Zyl and offers the Stormers a choice of mark where Du Plessis kicked and where the ball landed but 15 metres in from touch because it landed nearer to five metres from touch.
Law 10.4 (o) Late-charging the kicker. A player must not intentionally charge or obstruct an opponent who has just kicked the ball.
Sanction: The non-offending team may choose to take the penalty kick either at the place of infringement, where the ball lands or where it was next played.
Place of infringement. If the infringement takes place in the kicker’s in-goal, the penalty kick is taken 5 metres from the goal line in line with the place of infringement but at least 15 metres from the touchline.
The non-offending team may also choose to take the penalty where the ball lands or is next played before landing and at least 15 metres from the touchline.
Where the ball lands. If the ball lands in touch, the mark for the optional penalty kick is on the 15-metre line, in line with where it went into touch. If the ball lands, or is next played before landing, within 15 metres of the touchline, the mark is on the 15-metre line opposite where the ball landed or was played.
If the ball lands in the in-goal, in touch-in-goal, or on or over the dead ball line, the mark for the optional penalty kick is 5 metres from the goal line, in line with the place where the ball crossed the goal line and at least 15 metres from the touchline.
If the ball hits a goal post or crossbar, the optional penalty kick is awarded where the ball lands on the ground.
Nowhere in this is there anything about commitment. Du Plessis had just kicked the ball and then he was tackled. That is a late tackle.
We should not try to find mitigating circumstances such as a slippery field, a lack of malice, or commitment. Du Plessis did not commit Van Zyl. Van Zyl did it all on his own. There is no obligation to tackle in rugby football. But tackling is allowed - provided that the person being tackled has possession of the ball.
Not that the optional penalty must be at least 15 metres in from touch, as the referee did in this case.