IOL Sport rugby writer Wynona Louw.
IOL Sport rugby writer Wynona Louw.

Why I’m backing Kaplan’s call for on-field appeals

By wynona louw Time of article published Feb 5, 2020

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Former Test referee Jonathan Kaplan reckons that captains should be allowed to make an on-field appeal to change poor decisions by match officials. Given all the puzzling and often downright wrong calls we see being made way too frequently, it’s a great call.

It was an error in the Six Nations encounter between Ireland and Scotland that prompted the South African to write about the topic in his column for the Daily Telegraph.

In that piece, it was something that happened in the first quarter that formed the focus of Kaplan’s column.

As Scotland No 8 Nick Haining took the ball into contact, the ball was ripped from his grasp by Josh van der Flier, with the ball then landing on Haining’s back as he went down. While on the ground, Haining then turned and placed the ball back onto his side, an illegal action that went unnoticed by referee Mathieu Raynal.

To make matters worse, Raynal then proceeded to penalise Ireland for an infringement and awarded Scotland a penalty (kind of reminds you of that Sam Whitelock moment in the Hurricanes’ Super Rugby semi-final against the Crusaders last year). Yes, nothing really came of it. Unlike what went down in Christchurch last season, this didn’t happen in the dying moments of a knock-out game. It didn’t see one team allowed to hold onto a narrow lead that could have been turned around, as was the case in that semi. But, as Kaplan also pointed out, it could have been a pivotal moment in the game. And that’s the point.

He went on to state his case for wanting to see each captain being given one challenge per half to contest decisions made by the referee. It’s something that could really help solve the mess that has become officiating.

A similar system was used in the Varsity Cup, and it’s something rugby could do with higher up as well. Scratch that, rugby needs it.

The very first round of the 2020 Super Rugby season again proved that.

Stormers skipper Siya Kolisi now faces around six weeks on the sidelines with a grade three medial collateral ligament tear in his knee after Hurricanes hooker Ricky Riccitelli thought it would be nice to gift the Springbok captain with a piece of play so malicious that it’s actually sickening. Better yet, absolutely nothing came of it.

That type of play on Kolisi wasn’t even an isolated case, the Hurricanes were dirty all round. That’s just one case where a review system could have come into play. And every week there are many, many more.

And I’m not just talking about foul and dangerous play, but anything that could impact the course of a match.

Giving each team one challenge or “white card” per half will ensure that there aren’t any unnecessary referrals that could interfere with the flow of the game. These referrals should also be specific, no general reviews should be allowed. A review system is the one thing that could encourage everybody involved in the game to be more conscientious on-field.

World Rugby can recite the punishments and sanctions for dangerous play, foul play or whatever other wrongdoing if they feel like it. But I still think having the option of taking immediate action, action that could influence the result of a game, is the one thing that would shock players and coaches into action. It’s also the one thing that could see a drop in questionable officiating as the referees would also be more cautious knowing that a captain can call for something he missed, or judged poorly, to be looked at. Poor officiating has stolen the limelight in one too many rugby productions. And it’s about time the curtain be brought down on it, swiftly.

@WynonaLouw 


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