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Duty Ref 526 - Marius van der Westhuizen

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We have managed to get hold of Marius, back from his wanderings and before he wanders again for he is much in demand amongst the top referees of the world, to get him to answer referees´ questions.

1. Name: Bahroun Heykel

Question: On several occasions I have noticed this situation: a maul is then formed the ball-carrier tries to fall to the ground but the opponents prevent him from doing so while the referee orders the opponents to release the ball-carrier. Last week it happened wafer 15 minutes of the match Racing 92 vs Glasgow.

Marius van der Westhuizen: Hi Bahroun,

This is a tricky situation to referee and we see this happening more and more. Attacking players try to get a knee on the ground constituting a tackle (Therefore the defenders have to release) and the defenders try and hold the attacking player up to form the maul and try and win the turnover. What you have to rule is what happened first. Did the maul form first or was the tackle completed first?

I think for the referee the important thing here is to communicate to the players what happened first, Tackle or maul. That will help the players to execute what the need to do next.

Hope this makes sense.

2. Name: Bunny Bolton

Question: What does intentional mean in the Laws of the Game? In particular I´d refer to offside at a knock on and obstruction. In law there is a difference between murder and manslaughter. In rugby it seems there is only murder.

Often the player who plays the ball does not apply his mind to playing the ball when a team-mate knocks the ball on. The ball flies at him and it hits his foot or by instinct he catches it, and in both cases he is penalised.

The same happens at obstruction. The backs run with the ball. A player runs to take a pass which does not come and he is ahead of where the ball in being played and penalised while the referee makes dramatic scissors cuts in the air.

Should that sort of thing not be a scrum?

Marius van der Westhuizen: Hi Bunny, You are 100% correct. The law clearly makes provision for when a player is accidentally offside.

Please see law 11.1 and Law 11.6 to distinguish between intentional offside and accidentally offside.

(a) A player who is in an offside position is liable to sanction only if the player does one of three
• Interferes with play or,
• Moves forward, towards the ball or
• Fails to comply with the 10-Metre Law (Law 11.4).
A player who is in an offside position is not automatically penalized.
A player who receives an unintentional throw forward is not offside.
A player can be offside in the in-goal.
(b) Offside and interfering with play. A player who is offside must not take part in the game.

This means the player must not play the ball or obstruct an opponent.

(c) Offside and moving forward. When a team-mate of an offside player has kicked ahead, the offside player must not move towards opponents who are waiting to play the ball, or move towards the place where the ball lands, until the player has been put onside.
Sanction: When a player is penalised for being offside in general play, the opposing team chooses either a penalty kick at the place of infringement or a scrum at the place where the offending team last played the ball. If it was last played in that team’s in-goal, the scrum is formed 5 metres from the goal line in line with where it was played.

Accidental Offside: Law 11.6:

When an offside player cannot avoid being touched by the ball or by a team-mate carrying it, the player is accidentally offside. If the player’s team gains no advantage from this, play continues. If the player’s team gains an advantage, a scrum is formed with the opposing team throwing in the ball.
(b) When a player hands the ball to a team-mate in front of the first player, the receiver is offside. Unless the receiver is considered to be intentionally offside (in which case a penalty kick is awarded), the receiver is accidentally

At obstruction I think it’s clear when the attacking player takes out a defender, that should be penalized. If that’s not the case as referee we ask ourselves the following questions. Was the player in a position to receive the ball? And does the defending player make contact rather than the attacking player. If that is the case it cannot be obstruction. Hope this clarifies your questions.


3. Name: Arno Vosloo

Question: why are some things still laws? I´ll list them below.

a. putting the ball in straight at a scrum.
b. throwing in straight at a line-out.
c. being behind the kicker at kick-offs.
d. putting a foot into the field of play when throwing in to line-outs.

I´m just asking - but so are lots of other people.

Marius van der Westhuizen: Hi Arno, You ask a couple of good questions. Please see my answers below.

a. putting the ball in straight at a scrum.
This is to ensure a fair contest. I still feel we can “police” this better. All stake holders (Coaches, Players, and referees) needs to take control of this, as I feel this is a discipline rather than a skill.
b. throwing in straight at a line-out.
To throw the ball into the line-out with players moving around as they do and adding the defenders who contest is a rather a unique skill and something that should kept in the game. Hookers train for hours and hours in a week to master this skill.
c. being behind the kicker at kick-offs.
This is basically to ensure that the game restarts fairly and to “tidy up” the game. It does not really have a influence when the ball is kicked very deep but does when it is a contestable kick. In sevens it is “polices” very strictly because it is a free kick offence.
d. putting a foot into the field of play when throwing in to line-outs.
This is again just to ensure that the game restarts in an orderly fashion. With so many things happening at a line-out I can understand that this is often missed, But on the occasion that the referee sees this it should be dealt with.

Kind regards


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