We bring you the first of a four part series focusing on specific game measures for Super Rugby, that is, how scrums, tackles, work on areas and the referee team have been tracking so far in 2013 Super Rugby, today we bring you the scrum.

The season so far has seen one of the most efficient scrum clearances in perhaps any domestic rugby tournament’s history, with Super Rugby in 2013 showing a precise 75% rate of scrum’s succeeding, meaning the ball was fed and cleared on the first put in three times out of four.

SANZAR Game Manager Lyndon Bray refers to this with the referees’ team as “ball in, ball out” at scrum time, focusing on the fact that the ideal purpose of the set piece was merely to set up the next phase of play.

The 2012 Super Rugby season set a benchmark in itself, with a scrum clearance rate of 60%.

If six out of ten sounds like a rough rate, two Super Rugby season’s ago that all important percentile sat at 45%.

The key to his is a strong relationship between the Game Management team, of which the backbone is the referees themselves, and the franchise coaches.

There is literally an open door policy between the two parties, and this has allowed the ‘Shape of the Game’, especially at scrum time, to be efficient which has contributed to the high scrum clearance rate – three-quarters of all scrums being cleared is a proud statistic to fall back on.

Bray confirmed this saying that it was paramount that the scrums were essentially scrums, staying square with stability at the first hit.

"The coaches have really bought into the issue of creating stability before the hit," Bray said.

"This helps create a better hit at scrum time, allowing a higher chance that the scrum will survive the contest and we get the ball out."

Most importantly Bray confirmed that it was a result that not only coaches, but players could feel good about, with the scrum contest becoming more efficient.

The former whistle blower and now Game Manager Bray said that crucial to this was the referees’ timed gap between the three scrum calls.

"We time the gap between the words ‘touch’ and ‘set’” he said.

“The best outcomes are being achieved when we get the timing over 1.3 seconds between the calls, but not longer than around 1.5 seconds. 

“If the referee allows a shorter time, or a much longer time, the statistics show that the hit and subsequent contest becomes messier.  This timing allows both front rows time to be stable after the touch, but not held too long as to create instability or a preemptive movement before the referee calls set."

A pleasing follow through of such a high scrum clearance is resulting in a significant number of tries being scored within one or two phases beyond a scrum.

Another indicator has been the almost abnormal scrum success rate with all teams, with the Bulls having by the numbers the worst scrum with an 82% success rate, a number that would normally ensure dominance at this set piece.

Nine teams have a 90% of beyond scrum success rate, with the Crusaders number one with a 99% scrum success rate.

Bray was pleased earlier this season as there were continuous rounds where most matches were clearing scrums at a rate of 85% or above.

While there were isolated matches where the scrum percentage was lower, but still well beyond 50%, it was a simple case of the complexity of managing 16 forwards colliding with two halfbacks growling within a high tension environment.

Recently the IRB announced that the “crouch, touch, set” engagement call seen throughout Super Rugby will shift to “crouch, bind, set”, with new global trials announced by the game’s governing body, and this will be in effect at start of the next season in both hemispheres and follows extensive evaluation of the sequence during the recent IRB Pacific Rugby Cup.

This not only means fewer resets and more successful scrums, as we are seeing in Super Rugby, but is also aimed at enhancing player welfare by reducing impact on engagement by up to 25 per cent in elite competition.

For comparison international rugby remains the pinnacle of scrum completion, with the final edition of the Tri-Nations in 2011 seeing the All Blacks (94), Wallabies (89) and Springboks (86) boasting high scrum success rates, although one could attribute that to Test sides fielding the most competent and technically proficient forwards available from the three SANZAR nations - as well as elite referees managing the contest.