Steve Deane: New rules bound to confuse everyone

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Playing pool in a bar in South Africa is seldom straight forward.

You walk up to the table, put your rand in the slot, rack the balls and shake hands with your soon-to-be opponent.

They'll then say something like "new rules, old rules, or new-old rules"?

New rules tend to be those used in English pubs, with extra shots awarded for fouls. Old rules are a bit closer to New Zealand's 'miss the black and you lose' interpretation.

New-old rules are a mix of the two.

They're also what rugby seems set to end up with in a couple of months' time.

The likely introduction of at least some of the Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) - or Stellenbosch Rules, as they are alternatively known - into Super and test rugby might be designed to make the game simpler and easier to understand, but the teething period ain't gonna be pretty.

The debate over which laws, if any, to introduce into the Super 14 is far from concluded.

On November 15, Sanzar will meet (actually they'll tele-conference, but you get the point) and discuss their response to the IRB's request that the Super 14 be used as a guinea pig for the ELVs.

As it stands, it's likely at least some of the ELVs will make their way into the competition.

These could be as benign as shifting the corner flags off the paint 2m to allow tries to be scored in the corner with more ease; or they could be as drastic as allowing players to use their hands in rucks and replacing most penalties with free kicks.

Whichever rules make the cut, there's certain to be a decent amount of head-scratching and temple-rubbing before the players, referees and fans become fully accustomed to them.

The settling in process can be expected to take the majority of the Super 14. But, by finals time, you'd hope most of the players would have the rules sussed.

Unfortunately for the players who then make the All Blacks they will be asked to unlearn the new rules for the visits of Ireland and England, as the IRB have shifted the date for the introduction of any ELVs at test level from June 1 to July 5.

With no plans in place to test the ELVs at the top level of European club rugby, the alternative would be the English and Irish players experiencing the ELVs for the first time in the test matches.

That hardly seems fair, either.

The whole process has "reconditioning window" (a new catch phrase for colossal rugby cock-ups) written all over it.

Perhaps the best solution would be to simply let the players decide the rules on the day.

STELLENBOSCH EXPERIMENTAL RULE VARIATIONS

CORNER POSTS
Now positioned 2 metres back from touch, in line with the goal line and dead ball line.

INSIDE THE 22
If a team passes or takes the ball back into the 22m area and then kicks the ball out on the full, the lineout is where the ball was kicked, unless a tackle has been made or a ruck or maul has formed.

LINEOUT AND THROW
A quick throw-in can be thrown backwards in the direction of the defender's goal line.

No maximum number of players in the lineout. Teams do not have to match numbers.

The receiver (halfback) must stand 2 metres back from the lineout.

TACKLE AND RUCK
Players must enter through the gate.

There are now offside lines at the tackle (extending the full width of the field).

If the ball is unplayable - free kick to team not in possession of the ball when the tackle took place.

Most offences at the tackle are now sanctioned with a free kick.

The halfback may not be touched unless he has his hands on the ball.

Players are permitted to use their hands in the ruck.

Players who deliberately or repeatedly offend any law are liable to penalty kick, yellow card, etc.

MAUL
A maul can now be pulled down. This must be done by grasping a player between the shoulder and hips and bringing the maul to ground.

Players joining the maul must do so through the gate.

If a maul becomes unplayable free kick to team not in possession at the start of the maul.

Truck and trailer is permitted when breaking away from a maul; not permitted in general play.

SCRUM
The offside line for backs (except the halfback) is now 5 metres behind the hindmost foot.

KICKOFF AND RESTART KICKS
For all kick off and restart kicks, any infringement by the kicking team (e.g. player in front, ball kicked into touch on the full) will result in a free kick to the non offending team at the centre of the halfway line/22 metre line.

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