S Africa Varsity Cup to trial Captain’s Challenge

Varsity CupSouth Africa’s 2015 FNB Varsity Cup, broadcast on local television, will next year bring back the Captains/Coaches referral as a trial. The trial will see the white card used to allow a captain or a coach to ask match officials to review a referee’s decision or investigate a non-decision.

The white card was used in the 2008 Varsity Cup Final, and the concept has been endorsed recently by the All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who has asked for its introduction into world rugby.



The purpose of the white card is to ensure that the correct decision is made and is not limited only to a possible infringement by the attacking team that leads to a try, as is the case in current TMO protocols.

The white card may be considered on a request from a team’s captain or coach. It may be produced at a stoppage, regardless of what the stoppage is, in other words not only when a try us scored.

The incident may be a decision considered wrong or an infringement which the referee is thought to have missed.

Such a query by the captain or the coach will then be referred to the referee who will brandish a white card and refer to the TMO, which is why the white card can be used only in matches broadcast on television.

Each team is allowed a one request per half, but if the request receives a favourable response then the team making the query will be allowed another query in that half.

The decision taken by the referee and the TMO after they have reviewed the incident is final.


Varsity Cup has form for innovation

There have been other Varsity Cup experiments that have already had wide use, continuing the use of experimentation in S African rugby.  Previous experiments have included the use of eight players on the bench to combat the need for uncontested scrums and a change to the points’ system that reduced penalty goals and dropped goals each to two points but raised the value of the conversion to three points. Australia used the latter in this year’s inaugural National Rugby Cup.

Last year, too, a patch was introduced to props’ jerseys to show where binding should take place and two referees were used on the field during Varsity Cup matches.

White card 2015

André Watson, South Africa’s referees’ boss and a driving force behind the experiments, says: “The white card is a step in the right direction to helping the referee to get difficult decisions right and in putting the responsibility of helping to get decisions right onto captains and coaches.”


This will be one to watch!



  1. Good afternoon

    Law 6A 4a is probably the best statement in the law book and helps to make the relationship between referee and players in rugby union the envy of other team sports. Surely the white card experiment undermines it?

    Best regards
    John Ferguson

  2. John – great point and don’t disagree. However, the Stellenbosch law experiments and this follow up to that have been good breeding grounds to test these ideas out in a real and valid competition. A lot of the tests never see the light of day. Indeed, the last time this sort of thing was tested was some 6 seasons ago so let’s see what the outcomes of this trial are.

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