Watson: Refs not killing games
André Watson (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - South African referees boss André Watson says Super Rugby referees are not killing running rugby with their strict application of the laws.
The first round of this year's Super Rugby competition was characterised by referees awarding numerous penalties.
And after last week's round of matches, where no team managed a bonus point victory for four tries, there were a few complaints about the way the referees handled the games.
Before this year's competition referees were told to be stricter on especially the breakdown and scrum areas.
The Cheetahs' backline coach, Hawies Fourie, said the type of rugby dished up was disappointing to see.
"The rugby that was played was disappointing, especially due to the large number of penalties awarded.
"Many teams just went for the safe option of kicking balls away.
"It wasn't pretty to look at," he told the Volksblad newspaper on Wednesday.
But Watson believes the general consensus that less penalties lead to a more open running style of play is not true.
"Statistics show more penalties awarded (especially at the breakdowns), lead to more tries being scored. If there are fewer penalties, more players will try and slow the ball down illegally and thus close up the space.
"The play may flow more (with fewer penalties), but there is almost no chance for players to break through. That leads to disguised league-style rugby in union colours. The coaches (and players) actually want quick possession," Watson told the same newspaper on Thursday.
Watson believes the number of penalties will decrease as the tournament progresses.
"Referees and players are a bit rusty at the beginning of the season. I have no doubt that the penalty-count will decrease as the season progresses. But the players will have to adapt, because the referees won't show any mercy."
Watson feels there are other factors that reduce running rugby.
"What gets forgotten or passed by is the fact that teams' defence has become so good that it's incredibly difficult to score tries. I believe that coaches and players will pay more attention to attacking play because there are still opportunities to score points - even with first phase possession."