top of page

New laws tested in Varsity Rugby well received by coaches and players

SA Rugby head of amateur referees Deon van Blommenstein believes the tackle law changes for school and club rugby have been well received by both coaches and players in the 2024 FNB Varsity Cup and FNB Varsity Shield competitions. 


The updated laws relate to the lowering of the maximum legal height at which a tackle may be made while also outlawing potentially dangerous ball-carrying actions and techniques were put into practice when the competitions kicked off earlier this year. 


Van Blommenstein admits there are certain things they are not able to officiate on, but they needed to find out what can be refereed and strike a balance. 


“We wanted to get two things right. Firstly, we did not want to kill the game by increasing the penalty count from 20 to 45 penalties because that would frighten away the people.  The second aspect was that we wanted a behaviour change in players. 


“When the competition started the biggest issue was the ball carrier going into contact with the head lower than the hips. That was the biggest challenge, players forget because they developed certain habits. For the referees, it was just as difficult because they looked at the tackler instead of the ball carrier. So, for them, it was also a big adjustment.” 


Despite teething problems, Van Blommenstein says a marked improvement in the implementation of the laws has been noticed as the competitions progressed.  


“In the first round, there were about 16 penalties for tackling higher than the sternum and head lower than the hips. After each round, it became less and less until we had no penalties around the new tackle laws.  


“The coaches have worked hard and have played a massive role in the progress. You can see it in the games. When a player gets penalised for running with his head lower than the hips, he immediately says sorry to his teammates because he or she has forgotten. 


“It makes a massive difference that coaches are spending time on how to tackle correctly. The outcomes are now much better. In the past, it was just about using tackle bags, but that is not how tackles work. Tackles are dynamic because players sometimes change direction. 


“It seems as if things are working at the moment. 


“We thought that we would get a backlash, but fortunately it has been well received. However, it is still early days and in the future (the head lower than the hips law) might change from a penalty to a free kick. It’s still not perfect on school and club level, but we will see how things develop and see how we can improve going forward.” 



by Adnaan Mohamed  



The latest updates


Varsity Shield Final HIGHLIGHTS: FNB Tuks vs FNB Varsity College - 26 April

02 May 2024

Womens final HIGHLIGHTS: FNB Maties vs FNB UFH - 26 April

02 May 2024


24 Apr 2024

bottom of page