South Africa’s Varsity Cup – the pinnacle of university rugby in the country – has always had a penchant for experimenting with rule changes (a few years ago they decided a try would be worth eight, rather than five, points), and this year is no different, with the introduction of the ‘Free Catch Rule’.
Put simply, a player can now mark the ball, when catching a kick on the full, anywhere on the pitch, as opposed to only in his own 22. This results in the normal free kick. However, the referee will also play a free kick advantage to the catching team after any ball is caught, even if the player does not call a mark. This means that if the catching team do not make any inroads with the ball after taking it, they will come back for a free kick.
SARU chief executive Jurie Roux said of the new law: “I think the ‘Free Catch Rule’ has the potential to eradicate poor kicking and also enhance running rugby at the same time. It’s also a very exciting innovation for Varsity Rugby.”
Other innovations in this year’s Varsity rugby include the introduction of a dual refereeing system, in which there will be two men with whistles in the middle, and specially designed jerseys for props, which should making binding at the scrums easier and safer.
What do you make of the Free Catch Rule – is it a good idea, promoting running rugby, or is it a step too far? Are there any other rules you’d like to see trialed in the future?
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images