Sealing Off at the Breakdown

South African Referee's Boss Andre Watson has sent out a ver clear directive to referees in South Africa that deals with an issue brought up in RO Development Blog some months ago. Like Andre defines, referees in Ontario need to take heed of his article from South African Referee Website -www.sareferees.co.za 

WATSON MOVES AGAINST SEALING OFF


André Watson, South Africa's refereeing boss, has spoken to referees and coaches about a slack application of the tackle law which forbids the action popularly known as 'sealing off'. He warned that referees who failed to stop sealing off risked being benched.

Sealing off occurs after a ball-carrier has been tackled and a support player or support players fall on to of the tackled player to ensure that their side can get the ball by preventing opponents from getting to it. This is against the principle of having a fair contest for the ball after a tackle.

This is contrary to Law 15 which requires arriving players to be on their feet to contest the ball.

Watson's Key Areas document earlier this season  spelt out the nature of and action against 'sealing off'.

Tackle - "Sealing off"
2. "Sealing off" happens when an arriving player at the breakdown voluntarily goes to ground or on to team mates to either win possession or to cause an obstruction with his body to secure possession.
3. This action is seldom penalised when attacking players are doing it but defenders are regularly and correctly penalised for the same infringement.
4. Please referee both teams at the breakdown as the laws are the same for both teams. Do not remain focused on the defenders only at the breakdown. 
5. Should an attacking player make contact with opposition players on his feet in a clean out at the breakdown, and he then ends up on the ground, because the impact caused them to collapse, he did not voluntarily go to ground and must not be penalised. However he must roll away to make the ball available to players on their feet.
6. When a "pick & drive" occurs support players on the ball-carrier must roll away when their drive is brought to ground.

 
Last week Watson's communication to his referees began as a request before beckoning sterner.

In the week ending 3 September he wrote:
'Before the start of the local SA Competitions a document named "Key Areas" was sent from this office to ensure a common message and consistent application by coaches, players and referees. We thank all for their cooperation to date.

'However, I regret to express our utter disappointment in the number of illegal sealing-off incidents (refer to point 6 of the "Key areas" document) that is very evident at present. It is not played or refereed well currently and denies opposition to contest the ball at breakdowns, totally contrary to what we are all trying to achieve.

'All referees are herewith officially requested to adhere to the application of sealing off in all SA Competitions. Referees ignoring this application will be at risk for future appointments.'

He apologised to coaches for 'slack application' and promised an improved effort.


To referees he wrote

Please do not misinterpret this message and start shooting from the hips this weekend.


* Low clean outs where the threat is removed are  fine, provided there is a threat and the player gets out of the way immediately after the clean out.

* Flopping to prevent the opposition from contesting is not allowed.

* Players are to be on their feet when they clean out.

* Players entering the breakdown are to do so through the gate.

 Then came the weekend and a second message from Watson, sterner this time.

'I sent a mail out last week regarding sealing off and watched all games this past weekend with huge anticipation. I regret to inform you that we were only partly successful. The reason was simple: certain referees decided to ignore the request, or worse still some decided to award a penalty kick for sealing off, sporadically – so as to show that at least they are not flatly ignoring the request. The result was inconsistency in that certain referees applied it and others did not, we now look like fools in the eye of the coaches, players and viewers.

'Gentlemen and ladies, this is a respectful yet final request for you to fix this tendency that crept into the game with immediate effect.

* The teams got the message and most teams tried their best – this was clearly evident.

* However, players sometimes transgress out of desperation and/or when they become lazy or reckless.

* They will continue to do so unless penalised by you, the referee.

'Three referees that refereed on TV this past weekend and who did not fix the sealing off problem have been warned formally in writing.

'I hate to do this but if you want to see how it is to be played and refereed, please refer to the Blue Bulls/Sharks and Leopards/Cheetahs games.

'Selectors and MRs are requested to ensure they report on referees dealing with the sealing off in their reporting.

'Again, we are not looking for a thousand penalty kicks, but management and, yes, if there is no compliance to award penalty kicks.

'It does not matter whether a team is carrying the ball or defending.

'I trust this matter will be dealt with by each and every one and look forward to the improvement of the game.

'WE ARE IN THIS PREDICAMENT BECAUSE OF SLACK REFEREEING OVER THE LAST FEW WEEKS AND AS THE GENERAL MANAGER OF REFEREES, I NEED TO ADDRESS THIS MATTER AS I HAVE DONE LAST WEEK AND ABOVE. THE NEXT STEP WILL BE TO INSTRUCT THE APPOINTMENTS COMMITTEE TO  APPOINT ONLY REFEREES WHO TOW THE LINE AND ‘BENCH’ THOSE WHO WANT TO APPLY their OWN LAWS.

'I trust you all understand what is required and look forward to your compliance. Should there be any uncertainty, please do not hesitate to contact me personally.'

Again Watson addressed the coaches, thanking those who complied and warning those who did not: 'This mail serves as a respectful yet urgent message that the referees will be vigilant on handling this very negative tendency that has crept into the game recently and we would hate to see teams being heavily penalized at the business end of the season and trust we will all (coaches, players and referees) contribute in fixing this. The game is to be played by players who are on their feet and we as referees will do our best to achieve this and trust we have your cooperation in this regard.'