The scrum saga: It does not feel right that teams are exploiting the penalty ‘treasure hunt’


The Rugby World Cup always throws up a few controversial talking points, and this year has been no different.

The issue of scrum and lineout infringements is sadly nothing new and has been bubbling beneath the surface for years now, but it has got me wondering if it is time for World Rugby to step in and make changes.

Over the past 15 years, scrums have increasingly become, too often, a source of penalties – and in turn, points – and that just does not feel right.

The scrum is meant to be a crucial aspect of the game, a contest of strength and technique, not a way to rack up points on the scoreboard. Yet, we have seen a pattern emerge where the team that takes scrums off a mark often ends up benefiting from a string of penalties.

Take a look at the Springboks; they have been one of the primary exponents of this strategy. Now, do not get me wrong, I admire their passion and the fight they bring to the game, but you have got to ask if we are losing the true essence of rugby when every scrum infringement is penalised.

To put it in perspective, hookers are now three times more likely to score a try than a centre. Let that sink in.

When your frontline scrummager has a better chance of dotting down than your speedsters in the backline, it is a sign that something might be amiss.

We have all witnessed how the Springboks, in the recent Rugby World Cup semifinal, were awarded a crucial scrum penalty, which Handre Pollard duly converted into a match-winning kick.

Sure, it was thrilling, but it made me wonder if we are valuing the dark arts of scrummaging more than the open, flowing, and skilful side of rugby.

South Africa’s Siya Kolisi clashes with England’s Tom Curry during their semifinal clash. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

To me, it is like celebrating the guy who brought the best cheese platter to a potluck instead of the talented chef who whipped up a gourmet dish.

It is not just about South Africa; many teams have become adept at utilising scrums and lineouts as a way to gain an advantage.

We should be encouraging the beauty of the game, the tries, and the spectacular moves rather than rewarding teams for turning scrums and lineouts into tactical tools to collect penalties.

So, as the dust settles on the epic battle between South Africa and England, and we gear up for the final showdown against New Zealand, it might be time for rugby officials to consider a shift towards uncontested scrums and lineouts for infringements.

Let us get back to the basics of the game, where the scrum is a contest of strength and technique, and the lineout is a platform for launching dynamic attacks.

Rugby is all about balance and finding that sweet spot between physicality and skill. Uncontested scrums and lineouts for infringements could be the way forward to preserve the essence of this beautiful game.

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It means possession is retained by the team that does not infringe. So a powerful South African scrum can still get an advantage of a set play, but not be gifted penalty shots at goal or regaining possession from a kick into touch.

Until we see some change, let us keep our eyes glued to the screen and enjoy every tackle, every try, and every moment of pure rugby magic – it is still a wonderful game after all.

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