Clampdown on rolling maul could affect ACT Brumbies in Super Rugby play-off against Cape Town Stormers

While the Brumbies have become adept at the rolling maul, past crackdowns on particular areas of the game have been followed by referees becoming whistle-happy around it.

Matt Toomua’s Brumbies have become adept at the rolling maul that has come under a clampdown from referees. Mark Nolan / Getty Images
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The ACT Brumbies will perhaps be hoping this week’s directive on rolling mauls did not filter down too quickly from World Rugby (WR) headquarters as they prepare for Saturday’s Super Rugby play-off against the Cape Town Stormers.

The catch-and-drive from the line-out has been the Canberra-based outfit’s most potent attacking weapon over the past few weeks of the regular season with flanker David Pocock twice scoring hat-tricks off the back of the maul.

The widely utilised tactic, which is difficult to defend legally if properly executed, was shaping up to be a major factor at this year’s Rugby World Cup until the directive was issued this week.

WR ordered referees to clamp down on three areas of the game before the World Cup – high tackles, crooked feeds at the scrum and the rolling maul.

The directive was accompanied by videos illustrating two areas where they wanted the maul laws more stringently applied – ensuring the player ripping the ball from the line-out jumper was bound to his teammates and that all attacking players joined the maul behind the ball carrier.

While the Brumbies have become adept at the rolling maul, past crackdowns on particular areas of the game have been followed by referees becoming whistle-happy around it.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham at least has a good idea of how the referee for Saturday’s match in Cape Town – the South African Jaco Peyper – interprets the rules.

The Brumbies scored three tries from catch-and-drives when Peyper refereed their final regular-season match against the Canterbury Crusaders last weekend, one awarded as a penalty try.

Peyper also awarded a penalty try to the Crusaders from a rolling maul.

It might therefore have been the WR directive that caused Larkham to express reservations about how effective the tactic might be against the Stormers.

“It’s been very effective for us. We scored three tries at the weekend and three the week before,” he said.

“It’s something we worked really hard on in pre-season. We didn’t get a lot of return on it in the early rounds. We felt that was due to some refereeing decisions.

“But we’ve stuck with it. We’ve got a few options off the back of the maul, but because it’s been effective, we haven’t had to use those options.

“We’ll see how the Stormers go in stopping it – and they’ve got a maul themselves – and we’ll see how the referee wants to ref it before we decide whether that’s going to be our tactic for the whole game.”

Action starts at 7.05pm on OSN Sports 1

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