Rugby Championship

Time for white cards in rugby?

2014-10-07 14:07
Wayne Barnes (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - In addition to yellow and red cards, has the time come for the International Rugby Board (IRB) to consider the introduction of white cards?

READ: Kaplan questions Bok penalty

VIDEO: Tank Lanning and Rob Houwing on the use of white cards

In contrast to the other two colours already in use, the white card would allow captains to send a decision "upstairs" for referral - similar to the Decision Review System (DRS) currently used in cricket.

The white card has been trialled - with great success - at Varsity Cup level in the past.

The past weekend's Rugby Championship match between the Springboks and All Blacks at Ellis Park was decided when the hosts were awarded a penalty after replays of an illegal tackle by New Zealand's Liam Messam on Schalk Burger were shown on the big screen.

Questions were asked afterwards whether the Boks would have received the penalty had the SuperSport TV producer not replayed it numerous times.

Messam's "hit" caught the eye of the 61 000-strong crowd who let English referee Wayne Barnes know - in no uncertain terms - exactly what they thought about the legitimacy of the tackle.

Neither Barnes nor his assistant referees saw the incident, but because it was shown on the big screen, Barnes referred the incident upstairs to the Television Match Official (TMO).

While there's no doubt the resultant penalty was the correct decision, Barnes didn't use the correct protocol when it comes to consulting the TMO.

Retired SA referee Jonathan Kaplan also questioned whether the same outcome would have been reached if the game was played in New Zealand. Would the Kiwi producers have shown replays of the incident on the big screen afterwards, over and over?

There's no doubt they would not have done so, but then again had Messam been the one on the receiving end, a New Zealand producer would surely also have displayed it for all to see.

It was good for the game of rugby that the right call was made at the weekend, but what happens in future when a player gets tackled late and there's no replays of the incident?

That's where a white card system would come in handy, giving captains the opportunity to appeal a referee's decision or refer potential foul play to the TMO.

In Saturday's example, Burger could then have informed his captain of the incident, giving him the opportunity to refer it upstairs.

As is the case in cricket, three referrals per Test per team would help eradicate refereeing blunders.


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