Super 15 - Rugby Introduces ‘White Cards’
Referees will be able to wave white cards in addition to the standard yellows and reds in Super 15 rugby this year in a bid to cut down foul play.
Currently, if a player receives a yellow card in rugby, he is withdrawn from play for a 10-minute spell in the ‘sin-bin’, while a red is a straight sending off. The white cards will allow a referee to refer incidents to a citing commissioner if he believes there has been foul play, but is unable to identify the culprit. The game will continue as the suspected player or players are put ‘on report’, and once a verdict has been reached the referee will be informed to take action. It is hoped that offences such as gouging and biting will be identified quicker through the white card system, and allow referees to focus on the flow of the game.
Greg Peters, the chairman of SANZAR, who run the Super 15 tournament where the scheme is being trialled, also believes it will make for greater consistency in decisions.
“The card is available to a referee when he thinks something may have happened but hasn’t been able to get a good look at what might have happened or who may have done it,” Peters said.
"I think it will assist us in removing incidents from the game that the IRB and SANZAR are trying to remove and clean up the game in terms of foul play," referee Andrew Lees said. "That (new system) makes it a bit clearer for the public, who in the past may not have known things are going to the citing commissioner. We're just making the process a bit more transparent to the public eye."
In addition to the white cards, the citing commission has been streamlined, with any cited players to receive shorter bans if they plead guilty to their charges before the hearing. Hearings will also be conducted via video conferences in order to speed up decisions. The tweaks to the laws are designed to enable more consistent officiating, particularly at the breakdown, one of rugby’s most contentious and difficult areas to referee. Officials have been accused of refereeing the breakdown with different interpretations of the laws, which has made it hard for teams and supporters alike to follow. The emphasis at the breakdown will be on making sure tacklers release their opponent quickly, and watching the height from which players from either side arrive to compete for the ball.
World Cup-winning New Zealand flanker Richie McCaw has welcomed the move.
“Get the tackler out of the way,” McCaw said. “That has made a hell of a difference in the last couple of years so they are obviously going to be pretty strict on that from the start so that is pretty critical from the start rather than try and bring it in halfway through.”