23 man bench ruling ratified

The concept of employing eight-man benches in the 2010 Varsity Cup was officially ratified at an Extraordinary General Council Meeting of Saru on Monday.

The proposed introduction of 23-man matchday squads was rubber-stamped by the powers that be at the South African Rugby Union in a bid to stamp out uncontested scrums.

It is yet another feather in the cap of the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International – which trialled the white card concept in 2008 – with the tournament once again lending itself to experimentation for the greater good of the game, around the world and in South Africa.

“Not having uncontested scrums will only benefit the game of rugby union and we’re thankful that the Varsity Cup have allowed us the possibility of experimenting with this concept,” André Watson, South African Rugby’s manager of referees, told varsitycup.co.za.

The International Rugby Board (IRB) in August sanctioned a new law which will allow teams to name 23 players in a matchday squad – at domestic level only. However, only seven – of the eight – replacements may be used.

Of course, having eight-man benches means that all matchday squads in the 2010 Varsity Cup will now have a minimum of two props and a specialist hooker on the bench – and thereby new, enlarged 23-man playing groups – as part of this experiment in conjunction with SA Rugby.

These 23-man squads have already been utilised with plenty of success in France, England and Italy, but the Varsity Cup will be the first South African rugby competition to feature eight-man benches.

Varsity Cup Managing Director Duitser Bosman added: “We’re very happy and excited for the Varsity Cup to once again set trends with new concepts and experimentation and, of course, to be helping SA Rugby at the same time.

“It’s an exciting time for the Varsity Cup and the game of rugby in South Africa and we’re delighted to once again be at the forefront of these latest developments.”

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