Two try lines, no conversions at SI schools tournament

Rugby has changed a lot during the years, but there has always been just one try line at each end of the field.

Well, until now that is.

The annual South Island co-educational rugby tournament, which gets under way near Christchurch early next month, has embraced innovation since it was established in 1986.

Its emphasis has been on creating a fun environment and developing players rather than putting too much importance on winning.

This year, 24 schools will compete. But they might need directions to the chalk because there will be two try lines at each end of the field.

Not one. Two.

If you rumble the ball across the first line, you get five points. But if you can muscle the ball a little bit further and ground it over the blue try line, you will score seven points for your team.

Conversions are so 2018 and will not feature at all. They have been abandoned.

Tournament organiser Geoff Simons is the brains behind the idea. He came up with the concept because he wanted to encourage a bit more enterprise and reward teams which spin the ball rather than batter their way into the in-goal area.

"You can't change the fundamentals of the breakdown, but I do get annoyed sometimes watching the pick and goes and mauls," Simons said.

"You can collapse a maul once it's over the line, so those tries will only be worth five points ... so that was really part of my thinking.

"I just want to see if it will make a difference."

Simons has not given much thought to how the change will influence tactics. He just wants to give it a go and assess it afterwards.

There has not been a lot of feedback from the schools about the innovations. Just two schools have offered an opinion - one was in favour and the other opposed.

But if it does not work, then next year the field marking will be a little easier.

The tournament is still rugby, but not quite as we know it. For a start, each team will play two half games a day, so the games are not as long.

Tries become doubly important. Not only do they help win the game, but teams notch bonus points for each try right up to a maximum of 10 points for four tries or more.

There are also rules in place to help balance the game. Once a side reaches 50 points, the other team starts with an uncontested scrum on the opposition's 22m line.

There are two separate sections and each team will play five or six games. There are semifinals and finals, but the most prestigious prize on offer is for the best team and that is not always the winner.

"We do have a final, but we have also a best all-around team, which is what we put the emphasis on.

"It is judged on results - so it has to be a good team - but also attitude and fair play and feedback from the referees and opposing coaches.

"It is about having fun and developing players. If developing players costs you a game, well, it is not the end of the world."


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