The removal of the "yes, nine" call to feed the scrum and its replacement with a silent signal between halfback and referee is getting approval ahead of the Super Rugby season.

The International Rugby Board ditched the controversial verbal call last month after feedback from national coaches and referee managers. "Yes, nine" was subject to criticism because it took away the element of surprise for an attacking pack by alerting the defending team when to push.

Super Rugby referee Chris Pollock implemented the new non-verbal rule in last weekend's Blues-Hurricanes pre-season match in Masterton. When he stood on the side of the scrum with the halfback, he tapped the No 9 on the back - an indication of when to put the ball in. When he stood on the opposite side, once the packs had bound, he stood back and pointed in the halfback's direction.

Pollock believes there's been immediate improvement.


"Saying 'yes nine' created time for the opposition to push if they didn't have the feed. The attacking hooker had to lift his foot and that effectively created an eight versus seven contest. Now no-one but the halfback knows until the ball goes in, which makes for a fairer contest.

"The team that hasn't infringed to get the scrum in the first place deserves an advantage. I also expect there to be better quality ball fed to the backs, provided the attacking team's scrum is stable."

Pollock says a truer pushing contest has resulted.

"Previously, the opposition knew when the feed was going in. Ideally you want time for them to hit, hold, then allow the pushing contest to start. If they put it in early, it's a free kick, so they know to wait.

"Now we have the bind as well, it's not as much about who hits the hardest, where you end up with collapses."