Regular readers of this blog (both of you!) will know that I never, ever bang on about my opposition to the Experimental Variation Laws (ELVs) currently being trialled in the Super 14. Well, hardly ever.
It has come to my attention, however, that not only do the ELVs ruin the art of forward play and create a cheat's charter, they also appear (inadvertently I suspect) to make the cover tackle illegal!
This has come to light following a Super 14 mach between the Stormers and the Chiefs (what is it with these Super 14 franchise names? Would it kill them to give us a clue as to where they are based?) when a fantastic cover tackle by Lelia Masaga of the Chiefs (from somewhere in New Zealand) on Schalk Burger resulted in a penalty try being awarded to the Stormers (from somewhere in South Africa) because Masaga was behind play when the ball was offloaded to Burger from a tackle. The tackle can be seen below (last try in the highlights sequence):
Because the new law creates an offside line at the tackle rather than when a ruck or maul forms, any defender behind the play when a grounded player makes an offload is now offside. If the tackler happens to be the last line of defence, all of his teammates will be offside. Those defenders can then either let an attacker who receives the offload run away and score or infringe and, if they infringe close to the line, a penalty try will almost certainly result.
So what looked like a brilliant piece of defending by Masaga in fact turned out to be illegal and cost his team a seven-pointer.
Surely this cannot be what the lawmakers intended? Super 14 rugby is often subject to unjust northern hemisphere jibes that it is a form of glorified basketball - but ultimately if this law is applied to the letter then that is exactly what rugby will become - a game in which each side takes turns to score and where a try is almost guaranteed once a line break is made - something so far removed from rugby as we currently know it as to make it unrecognisable.
I can only hope that the powers that be are looking at the ELVs very much as the name intends - as an "experiment" - and, where such an experiment is shown clearly to produce a result that is neither intended nor desirable, that the law in question will be abandoned with indecent haste.