In the Hotseat - Andre Watson from Dublin
March 22, 2012
Every week we give readers of BOKzine the opportunity to ask questions of South African rugby personalities. Simply sign up for our weekly fan newsletter, BOKzine, by clicking here!

Your Question: I don't always feel it is possible for a player to roll away at the breakdown, if it is impossible for the player to roll away wouldn't a free kick be an option instead of a full arm penalty?- Tony Johansson

Andre answers: This is a factual and realistic statement, yet in reality it is amazing that a player is never trapped so that he prevents clear ball to his own team. It is almost always to “accidently” trap the ball for the opponents. One will notice that on the odd occasion the referee will blow a quick scrum when he feels there is no intention and the player is caught there.

Your Question: bestaan die reel van jy mag nie by n vaste skrum die bal onder die haker se voete ingooi nie? soos dit tans lyk is die haker 'n derde voorryman. Die balle word nie meer gehaak nie. - rudy van der mescht

Andre answers: Die reel bestaan beslis nog maar word nie toegepas nie vir verskeie redes.

Your Question: Hi Andre Out of the SANZAR countries, which has the poorest performing refs? (Big fan) - Wes.

Andre answers: Very good question but not fair for me to answer. May I suggest you decide and I know you will be 100% on the mark.

Your Question: Why don't refs get suspended and penalised like players do when they make BIG wrong calls like we saw this past weekend in both the Bulls and Cheetahs games? Surely it is only fair as they make out part of the total rugby setup in each game... - Jacques Henning

Andre answers: I know that my response will be seen as “covering for the referees”. Something that we are constantly accused of. I can assure you that it is not my intention. However, I need to “set the record straight” in terms of comparison. Players are suspended when they commit an act of foul play (Tip tackle, hit, kick, etc.) When referees are guilty of that, they will get suspended as well. When players for example knock the ball on with an open try line, or miss a simple tackle that results in a try, they do not get suspended and rightly so, as it is only a human error. Differently put: it is a brilliant player making an error. When referees make an error, then the call is for blood. The answer lies in the feedback the player gets from his coach and it may go as far as to: “if you are guilty of that again, we may have to drop you from the team”. Similarly, referees are scrutinized and given feedback. All above happens outside the media off course and hence the reason that some people believe that nothing is done. I can assure you of the contrary sir! (There are many referee that actually miss out on games – and therefore money -, others are dropped off panels.) But what we will not do is to “fire” a referee after one game or one error or make the remedial or serious action taken public.

Your Question: [1] Why is it that a ball must be thrown into a lineout 100% straight, but the scrummy is allowed to throw the ball into the scrum just about under his lock's feet? Surely the rule on this is very clear in that the ball must be put in straight? - Lukas

Andre answers: [2] With [1] above in mind and should referees enforce this at ALL levels of rugby, then we might see more tight head ball won at scrum time. As stated above in an earlier question, it is not done for several reasons. The law is clear and not strictly applied. The difference between the throw in at a line out as opposed to the scrum is that in a line out there is a contest whereas in a scrum there is not at the top level as the teams prefer to turn the ball over from defence rather than a tight head. I do not necessarily agree with this but it is driven hard by team coaches. Others argue that team just made an error and the non-offending team should ave the advantage.

Your Question: There are too many rules at ruck & maul time. These should all be scrapped and the game revert to the rules of the sixties era eg the ball could be the imaginary off-side line, players can enter from the "side" providing they are on side, hands in, rucking etc. I think players will know what's going on, less confusing to fans and even the refs might know what's happening!!!! - Ernest Birkholtz

Andre answers: The laws as we currently have it are mainly driven by coaches and players. Contrary to popular believe are the players and coaches very clear on what is to happen at the break down, I can assure you of that. One should remember that penalties are sometimes conceded on purpose – in order to stop the opposition from getting a quick ball, etc. Another interesting fact is that the PK count in Super rugby is lower after 4 rounds in 2012 compared to 2011. It was 24.2 in 2011 and is now 22.4 , a 7.47% decline. Another important statistic is that in the 60’s there were hardly more than 60 tackles in a game. That stayed low till after 1995 (professionalism) when the count started climbing and reached an average of 150 per game by the mid 2000’s. We are currently constantly reaching 300 tackles per game. A rough arithmetic exercise will summize that as there are more tackles than in the past, the chances are that there wil be more sanctions at the tackle, ruck etc.

Your Question: Why do the IRB/refs insist on penalising pedantic offences which have no impact on the play? (eg. the ball's secured by the team in possession at a ruck, no opposition from the defence, but the attacking team's blown for sealing, etc.) Surely the aim of the IRB/refs is to make the game free-flowing, not a stop/start affair interrupted by shrill blasts of whistles? - Dennis

Andre answers: The example that is illustrated here by Dennis is not supposed to be penalized, BUT the culprits be spoken to the referee at the next break in play. The intention is to penalize teams sealing off that negates the opposition an opportunity to contest.

Your Question: Hi Mr Watson, maybe it would be a good idea to make it compulsory for stadium grass to be cut in light and dark/short & shorter strips across the width of the pitches to assist with the proposed TMO law changes iro forward passing/offside decisions. It will also assist the ref with these decisions. - Pieter Oosthuizen

Andre answers: Hi Pieter, it is done in certain stadiums but I need to clarify that referees, Assistant referees and TMO’s will not look at this. A forward pass is actually a simple matter in that the ball is thrown forward. When a pass is caught in front of a point where it was passed it is not forward unless the passer and the catcher stood still. To pt it differently: when a player is running forward and pass the ball on the halfway line – and he does so by throwing the ball in line with halfway line – there is no ways that the catcher will catch the ball on the halfway line. The latter is not a forward pass – as the ass was initially correct – but a forward catch. I trust this brief explanation clarifies this matter in a big way.

Your Question: Uncontested scrums in the Super 15 league? Why is this allowed ,teams should provide for the unexpected on the bench, and suffer the consequences when they run out of reserves. - Karl de Klerk

Andre answers: Hi Karl, This season was the first time in donkey years that we saw uncontested scrums in Super rugby. It must also be said that no matter what the Lions did in terms of precautionary measures, they would never have predicted that they would lose three props in 20 minutes. Those props are still injured as we speak. With the coming of player 23 (an extra prop) into rugby by as early – hopefully – as next season, the problem should diminish even more, however, there can never be full guarantee that it won’t happen that there will uncontested scrums again.

Andre answers:

Your Question: When a linesman (assistant ref) reports seeing a rules transgression, which the referee has not seen, please tell me why the referee is not able to ask the TMO for confirmation of this? This could also apply to queries from the team captains when the referee has not seen an opposition transgression. It should be understood that referees, at ground level, do not see as much as TV coverage sees. - Anna Forbes

Andre answers: Dear Anna, the answer to your first question is that the current TMO protocol prohibits this action. They are limited to use the TMO only in goal at an attempt to score a try. The new TMO trial – to be introduced in certain competitions soon – will allow for extension of the use of the TMO. The second sentence of your question above infers that the referee sees less than the TV coverage. I can categorically state that the opposite is true. The referee move into positions that cameras cannot always be in. I can proof this as we did an experiment with split screening the TV with the usual TV coverage and with a camera that we mounted on the referee’s forehead. It was amazing to see that the camera on the top of the head of the referee saw more than the TV coverage. What the referee does not have on the field which you and I as spectators do have, is the luxury of replays.

Your Question: 'Keeping the questions decent' is hard while we watch referees making mind boggling decisions in Super Rugby, Six Nations or even RWC. Why don't referees, who are professional and paid, not get yellow carded or dropped when they make monumentally bad decisions, including awarding tries when they shouldn't and not awarding tries when they should? - Cath Boon

Andre answers: Please refer to answer above to a similar question.

Your Question: When are the referees going to be penalised for their consistently bad interpretations of the rules of the game? Surely a demote-system to a lower level could help? - Dirk C le Roux

Andre answers: Please refer to a similar question already answered above.

Your Question: Is it not the time to reconsider the crouch, touch, pause, engage rule; that is simply causing unnecessary delays in the play. Surely, we can do away with pause and, after touch, the two scrums should engage. After touch there is automatically a pause. So let's try crouch, touch, engage. I'm sure that it will speed up the scrums and reduce the number of collapses. - Huby Thorndike

Andre answers: Hi Huby, you will be glad to hear that we are already starting to experiment with this next month is Stellenbosch University as well as in Cambridge in England. The new sequence being trialled is: CROUCH, TOUCH, SET!

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