Tank Lanning

Green light for white card

2008-09-05 04:23

Tank Lanning

Picture it. The Danie Craven stadium in Stellenbosch, fuller than the tick that has been nestling on Fido's inner thigh for the last three weeks, the maroon clad, oft see through coke infused crowd going mental as the Maties, with just nine minutes to spare, having been one point in arrears for 10 minutes or so, finally managing to score the try that would see them take home the inaugural Varsity Cup.

But wait! Is it the ref's hanky? Is it the Freedom Front's latest credit card? No, it's the white card requested by Ikey captain, JJ Gagiano!

Yes, people, it was not just red and yellow in the man in the middle's pocket for last night's Varsity Cup final, but the all new, and perhaps all referee conquering, white card as well.

Brand new concept

The white card, introduced, intriguingly, only for the final of the tournament, allowed the captain of each side to challenge the referee's call once in each half. Get it right, and you get to keep the challenge. Get it wrong, and that is your challenge for the half.

The Ikeys had used the card in the first half to challenge a call, so this was not the first time the monster crowd had seen it - thankfully. I say this because to more than 90% of the audience, it seemed, this was a brand new concept that had not been explained, let alone introduced.

Apparently it had been spoken about on SuperSport's Boots and All last week, but not a peep via a press release, and obviously nothing on the inept Varsity Cup website.

Crazy stuff given that it was a brand new concept...

Winning try

So to finish the fairytale, the Ikey challenge was indeed successful, a Matie or two deemed to have been offsides after inspection by the TMO. Back to 10-9, huge boos from the Matie crowd, and a penalty to the Ikeys just outside their 22m area.

I say fairytale, though, because the Maties, after a yet another try that went begging because an embarrassing early celebration by Matie and WP fullback, Joe Pietersen, meant he dropped the ball over the line, did indeed go on to score the winning try in the final minute of the game to take the Cup! Amazing scenes.

So what of this white card as a concept?

It was a little frustrating at the Danie Craven stadium last night, for two reasons.

There was no big screen at the venue for the crowd to participate in the TMO ruling, meaning that the crowd sat wondering what was going on, on the above occasion for a full six minutes - and there were three challenges during the game. And because it had not been introduced or explained prior to the game, it left spectators confused.

Flow of the game

But, to my mind, the way forward is to introduce technology - where possible - to improve the game, both as a spectacle for the crowd and fans, but also in terms of making it as fair as possible via the most objective officiating that can be made available.

The player challenge concept has been tried very successfully in tennis, but that success is due hugely to the fact that the "TMO" gets to make the decision very quickly, thus not interrupting the flow of the game. So that is something the rugby TMO's are going to have to improve on if this is to be a successful intervention.

But given the massive amount of column space that has been dedicated to poor officiating in the Super 14 this year, and the fact that captains and coaches are basically barred from criticising match officials after matches, I think the white card would be a fantastic introduction to rugby.

Real chumps

Preaching to the converted in Wellington, New Zealand, I presume? The actions, or lack thereof, of referee Paul Marks in the final seconds of the match between the Hurricanes and Sharks on the weekend would have brought out the white card for sure - that is if the 'Canes had not already used their challenge for the half!

Refs will no doubt hate it, as they can be made to look like real chumps in front of thousands of eyeballs, but that is something that must come with the territory.

I say bring it on... even if just to give us fans more time to have a sneaky "two fingers of whatever is in your glass" bet on the TMO outcome!

It adds to the occasion.

  • Tank is a former WP tighthead prop and now Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, Front Row Grunt.

  • Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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