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Friday, December 09, 2005


The Secret of the Darth Maul

Okay, maybe it is not that bad, but when it comes to mauls and the laws regarding this area of the game, you will be forgiven to think the explanation to follow is as far fetched as the Star Wars movies.

I must make one thing clear. I was and always have been a backline player, so my views on forward play comes purely from the effectiveness I have witnessed displayed by certain teams and what they do, and having a clear understanding for the rules of the game.

The rules regarding mauls are almost as confusing and grey as the laws regarding rucks and the tackled ball situation. The main problem we have in these two areas is that for most of the game, it is up to the referee’s interpretation most of the time.

The maul, in my opinion, is an illegal tactic in any event. It is nothing more than organized obstruction, performed in an extremely disorganized way. Maybe that is why it is so hard for referees and supporters to understand and control.

But now the question remains, why are some teams successful in this phase of play and some teams not? To me, it is simply a question of organization and manipulation.

I will use the Bok pack as an example of how, in my opinion, this area should be controlled, and where, we fall short.

When you attempt to use this tactic your premium line out specialist should be used as the receiver of the throw, and ideally he should be positioned in the middle of the line. The players directly in front and behind him should be a prop (preferably tighthead) and your eighth man or pack enforcer depending on the strength of your opposition and what your field position is, the other prop should not be too far away either. My reasons on the specific players are explained a bit later.

There are two ways I believe you can setup a maul, firstly, a three line maul scenario and secondly, a two row maul scenario. In a three line maul scenario the ball will be controlled by the hindmost player of the mall, i.e. your blindside or openside flankers. In the two line maul the ball should be controlled in the middle of the mall by your hooker who must be surrounded, or blanketed by his team mates. When thinking of the 2 and 3 line mauls try to imagine it as if you were watching players in lines with you standing on the side of the maul.

I will look at the three line maul first. As mentioned earlier, your premium jumper should be the receiver of the ball. As with scrums it is vital that the ‘engagement’ of the maul is perfect, and this where we loose a lot of momentum in my opinion. Hence, the guys directly in front and behind the jumper play vital roles.

Once your lock receives the ball in the air and touches the turf the guys must execute their roles immediately and do it with enough force as not to get driven back as we usually see happens. The eighth man must immediately drive into the lock carrying the ball, securing possession and avoiding the opposition players getting close to the ball. At the same time your tighthead prop must immediately bind on the lock almost wrapping his body around the lock so that a portion of his body is actually in front of the lock on the opposition side. To picture it better, try and imagine the prop driving his left shoulder into the hip bone of the lock with his right shoulder and head behind the locks back. This does not mean he will be driving the lock sideways, he must position himself so that his left arm is around the waist of the lock and his right shoulder is facing the opposition, almost pulling the lock forward rather than driving.

The second prop must do the same on the other side. These guys will perform a stabilizing role in the maul initially as well as controlling the direction of the mall once it is formed properly.

Next up your enforcer should bind next to the eighth man also driving in on the lock and the prop. This guy along with either your blind or openside flanker will provide most of the leg drive in the maul, so they will be responsible for the momentum. The flanker that is left with the hooker must form the last line of the maul and either one of these two must control the ball at the back. In my opinion this should be the hooker, I will explain later. The last line of players must also bind directly onto the eighth man and enforcer, almost creating a bajada scenario in the maul where the majority of your players concentrate the majority of their power on a single point. The player in the last line not controlling the ball can also add to the leg drive.

In the meantime your lock, the initial catcher, plays an extremely important role. Most of the initial pressure from the opposition will be concentrated on him. He will get a feel of where the majority of the opposition’s momentum is moving too and thus will be in the perfect position to control the maul, moving it to the weaker side of the oppositions counter.

What makes the maul so difficult is everything I mentioned needs to happen in a matter of seconds, 5 at most in my opinion.

If the mall is stable and everyone executed their roles perfectly, the ball should stay with the eighth man in the middle for a bit longer to confuse the opposition as to exactly which way the maul and momentum of your team will be moving. If there is some infringement by the opposition the eighth man should move the ball to the back as quickly as possible to avoid loosing possession and change to a support or enforcer type role quickly as to negate major disruption to the maul structure by the opposition.

Now I will explain why I wanted certain players in certain areas of the maul. The line out jumper is obvious, securing possession is obviously of the utmost importance. I think the roles of the props are also self explanatory, but my reason for the tight head prop being the guy to immediately bind on the lock is for stability. This is the main function of the player in all set pieces and obviously he will be the most accustomed to such a role.

The reason for the eighth man might be a bit of a surprise to some. There are basically two reasons for this to me. The first reason is that with play in the area of the game, has become very competitive, opposition looks to disrupt the line out as quickly as they can, and their main target will always be the lock catching the ball. For this reason I believe it is imperative that the lock gets rid of the ball as quickly as possible, and no, I don’t mean them sticking their hand out with the ball waiting for someone to take it off him, because the opposition simply attacks his arms which will result in him spilling the ball.

I would want a player who is strong on his feet and in the upper body, used to the rucking, cleaning out and has good handling skills to drive into the lock’s midriff taking possession of the ball without exposing it to the opposition, and also has the necessary skills level to absorb the pressure and not loose possession and stay on his feet long enough for his team mates to join the maul where the ball is then moved to the back. He will also provide a lot of leg drive with the enforcer and blindside flanker to get the maul moving forward.

With the blindside flanker, your second line now consists of three relatively strong players, who basically forms the engine room, or business part of the mall. Through the communication of the catcher and the scrummy, their effectiveness will determine how quickly and effectively you get the maul moving in the right direction.

It is extremely important that you first line (catcher and two props) should not break or disintegrate, even when shifting momentum to a side to find a weakness in the opposition pack, yet again, the lock (catcher) has a hugely important role to communicate effectively with the whole pack in order to shift as a unit, whether it be to the side first or straight forward.

The last line basically protects the ball. I mentioned earlier I would prefer the hooker to be the ball carrier. There are two reasons for this. This type of mauling tactic usually leads to one thing, the ball carrier to break away from the maul and attacking channel 1.

Having the hooker as the ball carrier and the opensider in support gives you two options though.

The hooker either takes the ball up or goes to ground after crashing into an opposition player, and there is no better person in my opinion to help secure possession other than the opensider and one of your centers perhaps. Also keeping in mind that once the mall breaks up, your players will more or less ‘peel’ away from the maul in a back to front order. Which means your blindsider, enforcer and eighth man will be the first guys to arrive at the ruck more or less in that order, giving you the option to use them as runners of quick ball from the ruck, crashing into an already weakened opposition defense, remembering their channel 1 forward defenders will pretty much still be involved in the mall and also on the back foot giving your runners a huge advantage.

Your second option here is that the hooker, with the two flankers peels away very close next to the mall, with the hooker turning his back into the opposition channel 1 defender, who in all probability will be a opposition flanker or backline player, as their enforcers and strongmen will be stuck in the original maul. The two flankers obviously drives into the hooker again with the enforcer and eighth man joining as they peel away from the original maul, setting up a new maul. For this to work you need a ball carrier that is a strong bloke and can stay on his feet long enough for the cavalry to arrive in driving the obviously weakened opposition (the majority of the opposition players in the new maul will be either loosies or backs) defenders. In a case like this the maul will no doubt collapse more often than not, and if you don’t get awarded a penalty, with quick ball, your backs will be faced with a defensive line mainly consisting on slow big forwards now having to form a defensive line because their loosies and a couple of backs has been sucked into the second maul.

Yet again, the execution and communication needs to be clinical.

Seeing this section explaining the first type of maul is already as long as it is, I will explain my second theory and why i believe the Boks are not effective in this area as a new post. And yes, we know whose fault this is….
Ecxelent article PissAnt! I also loved the pic! LOL!  
My eyes have opened. I knew it was somebody's fault and there goes silly me forever blaming Gert Smal, when the REAL culprit has cleverly hidden himself in an obscure little Eastern Cape town...


Superb piece
Great stuff PA

Hope the namibian team read this and approach a certain individual for some analysis job that he is over-qualified for

BTW- Bloem is about as laid back as Windhoek ;-), and the Orakel Family will have an occasional Scottish nanny .

Forgive me for harping on Flash- and I do take the responsibility for delivering something soon- but if you can get the correct visuals to your analysis- man it will be prime time
that was what i did find extremely difficult OO!

not to insult the intelligence of you guys, but it was very difficult to try and put into words the images i have on paper in such a way it would make sense to you guys.

flash would have been handy in this regard, i agree.

We should talk in March- I mean really talk about this whole shebang.

Information Vizualization Systems- it will be an OSSOME wave to catch & ride.

From now on I will take this topic off-line.

BTW- on the intelligence issue- dont you think that the Brannasnacht regulars is a bit more endowed in this department than the guys who might be taking the field ;-))..oops but then Jannie Dup is a medical doc...makes you think doesnt it.

That is the Ruggaworld's Board members

Why dont you toggle the Archives list that it also reflects the postings by writer?
Trust a Province supporter to complain about the legality of the Maul! ;)


You've got mail on your webmail account.

On a more serious note. If you guys can keep this site going I see a definate future. The difference between this place and Keo is that keo was created for finacial gain. This blog was created out of pure passion for the game. That is what sets the two apart and if you can make some financial gain out of it, why not? So we must come hear and blog, even when Keo is back on again. Even if it means you guys must get your own webmaster to monitor the comments. All we need now is for the articles to collapse like on keo and for the comments to turn around or the comment box to move to the bottom.

You have mail btw


Why didn't you use the way the Bulls mauled against WP this year as a good example. The match in Pretoria was probably some of the most superbly executed mauling I've ever seen from line-outs and as set up from broken play.

The last time I saw mauling like that was, and this must be Kandas' fault, whne England mauled Samoa into submission in the RWC 2003.....

although i dont doubt the bulls strengths in this department, i think they actually lacked in this department this year in the CC, whereas last year they mauled everything off the park.

the one team that did this quite effectively imo, was the cheetahs, and their reason for success was they did this as a unit. but we all know the why the CC is in bloem this year, it is because these guys really gelled well as a team and played as a unit in all departments.

not taking anything away, but the match you refer to was not because of the bulls strength in this department, it was more a case of the lack of it in WP.

the bulls killed us in the tight loose much rather than the mauling department.

I've received the mail. Thanks, now to get a virtual expander download somewhere,

Share your sentiment- btw when can I expect yout next arti- maybe on the Bulls revenge on 11 feb 2006?
Great piece PissAnt,

Have to say I agree whole heartedly on the illegal nature of a maul. Sure the opposition is suppose to be able to contest the ball. This was probably one of Kandas' ideas.

However we did see how some teams are doing to counter the maul. The whole "truck-and-trailer" law is going to be used to counter it. We saw this in both semi finals of the CC and the final. The opposition players just disappear before the maul and it immediately becomes an infringement.

That alone should be grounds for the IRB to have a look at mauls form a legality point of view.
OORB sal Maandag my in diepte analysis van volgende jaar se rugby kry.  
So now the two pilares of the ball carrier mus just ensure that they incorporate an opposition player- to keep the maul legal?  
Thanks Aldo

"In diepte" rilling langs OO te rugstring ;-))

I agree, lets blame it on Kandas.
As jy 'n girl was sou dit rillings van plesier gewees het OO!!!  

My artikel gaan wees oor ons revenge op die tiende wanneer niemand op Vodacom Park is nie! ;-)
Sure Aldo, sien uit daarna ;-)

Al die Ruggaworlders

kyk hierna

nogal interessant.

jy het wragtag gemaak dat ek gaan seker maak het oor die 11de- dit is wel die "another ded bull" day

Just joking- will be 50/50 game this time around

so gepraat van 50/50, sommer lus vir 'n bietjie mandoza
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