Readjusting to the rules

Eddie Jones doesn’t believe switching from the hybrid to global ELVs will affect the Springboks come the Lions series.

The Boks will play the under the global ELVs for the first time since the year-end tour and Jones believes it should suit the Boks, even though the northern hemisphere teams have been playing under them since September.

The Super 14 has been played using the hybrid ELVs, where free-kicks instead of penalties are issued for most offences, but Jones believes a mental shift is all that is necessary for the Boks to readjust.

‘It will have a marginal effect on them,’ Jones told ‘The only real issue will be discipline at the breakdowns, now that penalties will come about. In the Super 14 there are no real rucks and players use their hands all the time, so the only real adjustment for the Tests will be listening to the refs. The Super 14 rules encourage ill-discipline, so it will just need a change of mindset, which should be easy for these great players.’

The increase in the number of penalties will result in both teams opting for three points that are on offer, as well as kicking for touch. Jones believes the Bok lineout, which couldn’t be used as much in last year’s Tri-Nations and is viewed as one of the strongest in the game, will be a major worry for the visitors.

Captain Paul O’Connell and Alun-Wyn Jones enjoy lineout time, but the other Lions selections in the pack have placed little emphasis on specialists for this set-piece. 

‘That will definitely suit the Boks,’ Jones believes. ‘That is an area where the Boks could pick five jumpers if the loose-forward trio is Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Pierre Spies. That is potentially an area where the Boks could have a big advantage as the lineouts will be much more important than they are in the Super 14.’

Collapsing the maul and unlimited numbers in the set-piece look set to be scrapped at an IRB Council meeting on 13 May, and this will be welcomed by both teams. The first law in particular has been met with disapproval in the northern hemisphere, and this Lions series will witness both teams using a favourite tactic of theirs.

‘Both sets of players haven’t had the opportunity to use it in recent times, so the skills in that area could be a little bit down,’ says Jones. ‘England are traditionally one of the better mauling sides around, but there influence could be limited as [Andrew] Sheridan and [Phil] Vickery are the only forwards likely to start. The other three Celtic nations are not outstanding maulers.’

Both sides will enjoy using the drive to draw in defenders and it will be key in creating scoring opportunities for the backs in what should be a tense series.

‘It will be a weapon that both sides will try use and exploit,’ says Jones. ‘You can either drive, play it around the fringes, or play it off the top to runners. It will keep the defence guessing which means they can’t just fan out, which creates space out wide.’ 

By Grant Ball