By Wynne Gray
Thursday Feb 4, 2010
Richie McCaw's work at the breakdown is used as a global model for aspiring flankers.
Now the master is going back to the classroom. Like all Super 14 players, McCaw will have to negotiate his way through the interpretation referees will use at the tackle in this year's competition.
Basically, tacklers will have to give their prey time to release the ball before they attempt to pilfer possession. All the sly leaning on victims, pushing up on the ball without releasing it and similar shortcuts will not be tolerated by match officials.
The Stormers have been trialling a new scheme of clapping their hands over their prey to show officials they have given the tackled player a chance to play the ball.
McCaw is in Nelson for today's trial game against the Blues but will not suit up for his 92nd game for the Crusaders until about round three of the series. However, he has been trialling his ideas at training and did not see a massive level of exasperation with the changes.
"It might be there is a whistle-fest in the first 10 minutes but that is okay if the referees have drawn a line in the sand. As long as they do that it would be silly not to adjust.
have a contest, it has got to be right or wrong, black or white."
McCaw, who is acknowledged as one of the master pilferers in world rugby, said the change would not be exasperating as long as referees ruled as they had promised.
"As long as we know where we stand. They have said they are going to be pretty hard on it and as long as they do that for the whole season, every week, then you have to adapt to it."
Players would have to be far more selective and accurate about trying to steal a turnover and they might only get a couple of chances in any game. Players had used this grey area in the game to their advantage, testing the referees' judgment when they were almost on their feet or getting back to that position.
Some officials were more lenient but this year the referees had vowed to be far more strict in the tackle area so unless the tackler had a genuine chance for a steal, the side with the ball should be able to create more continuity.
"It's all good in theory, it will be just interesting to see how it goes," said McCaw.
"Teams that are really accurate and figure that out to get their breakdown right, will be the ones that do pretty well."