An interesting idea…..
Call for rugby white cards
- By Wayne Smith
April 10, 2008
But on the evidence of last week’s round of matches alone, when not just the Hurricanes were left complaining about dud decisions but the Western Force, New South Wales and Queensland, it’s a fair bet most players would welcome a widening of the net.
NATIONAL rugby referees manager Peter Marshall believes Australia should look at trialling a tennis-style white-card system that gives teams one opportunity each half to challenge an official’s decision.
The system was trialled for the first time on Monday during the Varsity Cup final between the Cape Town and Stellenbosch university teams and was rated an overwhelming success by Marshall’s South African counterpart, 2003 World Cup final referee Andre Watson.
Stellenbosch, trailing 10-9 at the time, was denied a second-half try when a Cape Town white card prompted the television match official (TMO) ruling that a number of players had been offside when the “try” was scored.
The idea has particular currency in the wake of Australian referee Paul Marks’ crucial decision to blow full-time on a 13-all draw between the Hurricanes and the Sharks without referring to the TMO an 80th-minute incident that he adjudicated as a Hurricanes knock-on but was in fact a legitimate try.
Had the Hurricanes been able to use their white card, which is problematic because it’s unlikely they would have held it until the last minute, they would have claimed the win and Marks would have been spared the controversy that almost certainly will lead to his demotion from the Super 14 panel. “The idea has merit,” Marshall said. “I think it’s worth a trial and if it’s successful, trial it again at a higher level.”
The difficulty is that for the white-card system to be valid, the TMO would require access to a number of camera angles in order to make the correct call and only Super 14 and Test matches attract that sort of saturation coverage.
Marshall admitted there was a danger the white-card system would undermine the referee’s authority. “It would take a bit of getting used to but most referees would say that as long as the correct decision was reached, that’s all that matters,” he said.
At this year’s Australian Open tennis, players were allowed challenge to line calls, which then were referred to the Hawk-Eye technology, but once they had made three incorrect challenges per set they were allowed no more during that stanza.
Statistics showed that players don’t necessarily make the best line-callers, with 162 of the 268 challenges in the men’s singles incorrect. Marshall believes if the white-card system was introduced, it would have to be a double-edged sword.
If a team challenged correctly, it obviously would benefit from the right decision being implemented but if it was wrong, some penalty should apply.
“I don’t know what that penalty would be, a short-arm free-kick, perhaps, or surrendering 10m, but there would definitely need to be some disincentive to using it frivolously, otherwise teams would use it as a ploy to deliberately slow down the game,” he said.
The fall-out of the Marks affair, which has received saturation coverage in New Zealand and is certain to generate more if the Hurricanes miss out on the play-offs because of the two competition points forfeited as a result of his self-admitted mistake, also could result in referees from non-SANZAR nations controlling Super 14 matches.
The game’s leading referees’ bosses from the Six Nations and SANZAR countries, Marshall among them, South Africa’s World Cup-winning coach Jake White and Welsh coach Warren Gatland will meet in Dublin on April 22 to 23 to consider development pathways to bring on promising referees from outside the mainstream competitions.
“Say you have a very good referee from Argentina or Japan or Fiji, then you might look at using them in the Super 14,” Marshall said. “Similarly, if you have an outstanding ref from Spain or Portugal or Georgia, you could really help their development by putting them in charge of European Cup matches.”
At present, only Australian, New Zealand and South African referees control Super 14 fixtures and Marshall said it would need a SANZAR “buy-in” before any officials from lesser rugby nations took charge of Super 14 games.