Super Rugby rings in the rule changes
Changes in Super Rugby rules will now force assistant referees to make more decisions one way or the other.
The decision by the Sanzar board to limit the use of the third match official (TMO), as it did in 2013, means assistant referees will be expected to make the right or wrong decision in the heat of the moment.
This was the most important message by Lyndon Bray, Sanzar games manager, to the southern hemisphere’s leading referees, who met in Sydney last week.
The days are long gone where assistant referees can recommend that certain decisions be referred to the TMO.
The Sanzar board wants to speed up the game and avoid too many interruptions.
In one of the most important rule changes, which will also put further pressure on the referee, the assistance of the TMO may now only be used in the in-goal area when a try is scored and for foul play.
This means the referee will, for example, not have the luxury of asking the TMO to look at a possible forward pass earlier in a movement that led to a try.
The referees themselves apparently had no say in the changes and were only instructed to apply them strictly.
The possibility of a white card, where a captain may refer one decision per match to the TMO, was apparently discussed – but not approved.
Some of Super Rugby’s most important rule changes and improvements are:
Only one team will get a try bonus point in a match – by scoring three more tries than the opponent.
Bonus points will no longer be given to teams for four or more tries in a match. This could have a significant impact on a team’s approach – and even prevent coaches from giving all their substitutes a chance to play towards the end of a game, as they might have to defend their lead of three tries.
The ball carrier may no longer move from the front to the back in driving mauls.
The ball must now move back from hand to hand after the maul has been formed.
Teams will have to adapt to this and it will test their ingenuity under pressure.
Referees will welcome this change because they will now be able to patrol mauls better, but the assistant referees will, in such cases, again be forced into making more decisions without the use of the TMO.
Goal kickers now get only 60 seconds to complete the kick for the posts after a try or a penalty.
They were previously given 90 seconds.
If a penalty is awarded to a team after time has elapsed for halftime or the final whistle, the team will now be allowed to kick for the touch line.
A line-out will then be allowed to take place.
An interesting innovation for supporters who attend a game will be that the referee’s microphone will now be connected to the stadium’s speakers. This has been tested at Newlands previously, but it is still uncertain whether all the local grounds are ready for this.
Such a step will put greater pressure on the referee, as well as the players, but will be to the advantage of supporters.
Supporters may find the rule changes confusing, especially since the Six Nations series will still be contested using the old rules, for now. The northern hemisphere will only implement the new rules later this year.