If there is one thing about rugby that riles the legendary Ian McIntosh, it is the subject of over-zealous referees and the massive impact they can have on the game.
Maybe it goes back to the 1998 Super 12 quarter-final between the Sharks and the Crusaders in Christchurch that did it for Mac.
In that game, Aussie ref Peter Marshall scurrilously red-carded Sharks flyhalf Boeta Wessels for an innocuous offence, changing what was a very tight game.
The Crusaders won and went on to land their first title, and they haven’t looked back. Mac didn’t forgive Marshall and when the latter rocked up at Kings Park the next year to ref a game he encountered Mac in the car park and was on the receiving end of this jibe as Mac tapped his modest sedan: “Hey Marshall if it wasn’t for you this car would be a lot bigger ...”
Anyway Mac got hold of me regarding yesterday’s column about the plethora of red and yellow cards at the World Cup, most of them for dangerous tackles.
The problem with red cards, he said, is that they ruin the game for millions of viewers, the culprit’s teammates and the coaching staff.
“Send the guy off, by all means, but 10 minutes later allow him to be replaced so that the game remains a contest. Throw the book at the guy after the match if he is guilty, suspend him do what you like, but why punish his teammates? Why punish the coaching staff that has put in untold hours preparing the team?”
Mac has a very valid point. When Tomas Lavini, for example, was sent off early against England on Saturday, the game was effectively over as a spectacle. There are countless examples of this. It is like a kid being caught by the teacher talking in class and the whole class gets punished with detention.
It is an old fashioned law that needs updating for a modern game in which the stakes are so much higher on innumerable fronts compared to the old amateur game.
Mac also has an interesting take on who, in fact, is the culprit in high tackles.
“The focus seems to be solely on the tackler, but often the real offender is the ball carrier that ducks into the tackle. The tackler looks bad but in fact it is the guy ducking that should get the card. Similarly, when a ball carrier jumps into the air to avoid a tackle and then is tackled in the air, the tackler gets the card. It should be the other way around.”
Another bugbear of the former Springbok and Sharks coach is the penalising of a front ranker for standing up in the scrum. Mac points out that often the hooker, for example, has to stand up or risk having his neck broken, and often it comes from illegal scrumming from the opposition.
Those are fascinating insights from one of rugby’s great gurus. Here’s hoping this column finds its way to World Rugby headquarters.