It is a simple edict – aim to have at least 70 percent of ball available out of the ruck within three seconds – and this will be one of the crucial areas where referees will turn their attention to in the 2012 Super Rugby season.

In 2010 a specific focus was given to what were mistakenly referred to as new law interpretations, but it was rather a more specific application of the existing policies which at times become clouded as sides become canny at working out how to play the ruck to their advantage.

The ability to adapt is a hallmark to any good rugby team, and while there was still a focus to promote offensive play last season, sides that were able to create chaos and slow down play at the breakdown were able to benefit.

Often the teams that adjust most efficiently to the interpretations of the referee, especially at the ruck and breakdown, have a far greater chance of success.

This season there will be a clear directive to enforce the tackled area, ensuring quick ball is made available as often as possible.

The aim is part of SANZAR’s ‘Big 5’ priorities, which quite simply are there to speed up the game and improve Super Rugby as a spectacle.

The enforcing of this will be crucial, for Game’s Manager Lyndon Bray has admitted that last season defensive sides did become more prominent, as team flankers and jackals were able to wreck more havoc defensively at the ruck, without releasing the ball carrier first (when they were a part of the original tackle).

Tackled players with the ball must be allowed to release the ball, to maintain above 70 percent of the ‘Big 5’ focus, to allow swift process at the ruck, and even taking a dim view to the second bodies that come into play at the tackle.

Law 15: The Tackle


(a) When a player tackles an opponent and they both go to ground, the tackler must immediately release the tackled player.

(b) The tackler must immediately get up or move away from the tackled player and from the ball at once.

 (c) The tackler must get up before playing the ball and then may play the ball from any direction.

All teams have been operating under the priorities during the pre-season and the agreed improvement points, and most coaches have already stressed the need to adjust to referee interpretations is crucial.

However there will be no ‘school lessons’ during the heat of battle, with Bray maintaining a hard line stance that there will be “more action and less talk” so the onus is on the players to follow the laws.  The rule of principle is that a referee should only say something once, before taking action with the whistle.

There will also be a careful scrutiny on players joining the ruck.

As well as observing time honoured breakdown mantras such as “come through the gate”, “no entry from the side” and “keep your feet” – there will also be increased focus for assisting tacklers to move away.

Missile clearouts or players moving with no purpose away from the tackle will be heavily pinged in the 2012 Super Rugby season.