CAPE TOWN – At this point, it seems like rugby can do with a review system.
At the weekend, a refereeing call - or a refereeing miss - again emerged as a talking point in the penultimate weekend of the 2019 Super Rugby season.
In the semi-final between the Crusaders and Hurricanes in Christchurch, the visitors were denied a penalty in the dying moments of the game, and the Crusaders held on for a 30-26 win.
Until then, the New Zealand derby proved to be a top showdown... until it was blighted by Nic Berry’s call, that is. And it was a call that possibly cost the Hurricanes the game. The Hurricanes - who needed a try to get the win - made it into the 22 and were making promising metres towards the tryline, before Berry ruled that scrumhalf TJ Perenara had knocked it on at the breakdown.
But replays showed that the ball was in fact dislodged from Perenara’s hands by Crusaders skipper Sam Whitelock, yet the call went against Perenara’s team. While you could probably praise Whitelock for his crafty and efficient act, it was yet another vital moment that could have led to a different result.
Controversial officiating and refereeing blunders seem to have become part of the game, and it’s even worse when it happens in a must-win game... though it’s not like it should ever be allowed to slide anyway.
One Varsity Cup innovation, the white card, could be a handy addition, at both Super Rugby and Test level.
The card, which can be used by either coach or captain to review a decision by the referee, allows each team one white-card review per half.
The white card was first introduced in the inaugural Varsity Cup competition in 2008, and has made its return a couple of times since then.
The objective is to ensure that the correct decisions are made consistently, and it’s something that could come in handy in a situation like the Hurricanes’, while limiting it to one white card per half ensures that there isn’t unnecessary referrals that could interfere with the flow of the game. It also helps that the review must be specific and that no general reviews are allowed.
If a player wants to have something reviewed, he should notify the ref immediately, and should a coach review an incident, he will ask the television match official to inform the referee of the request.
In the instance of a request from a coach, he will then convey his referral to the TMO via radio contact, and afterwards, the TMO will inform the referee. The ref will then, at the next stoppage, show a white card to indicate that a request for a review was lodged.
Refereeing errors and “oversights” have become way too common, and trying something like the white-card system would at least be some action taken.