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JK's final whistle: White card

Sometimes I have been critical of the way the powers-that-be run the game, but not so for SARU and the Varsity Cup. 


I am a big fan of innovation, of making the game more exciting for the public, and obviously any attempt to make the game easier to understand not only for the public, but for players and coaches too. 


Whether it's a product of Varsity Cup or SARU is immaterial. The point is that the game needs to keep moving forward. It is not good enough to keep fiddling with the fringes of the law in an attempt to get a clearer picture of the road ahead, it is vital to innovate.


The laws are so complex and there really does need to be a big shakedown before the game starts to lose credibility in the eyes of the public. There are laws in the law book written in the same ink as any other which referees knowingly turn a blind eye to. Not only that, but the powers that be are aware of this as well and nothing gets done about it. 


On the flip side, Varsity Cup is hugely aware of the needs of the public and endeavors wherever possible to address these. I have been a big fan of the two referee system despite the obvious shortcomings. 


The decision to trial a binding strip at scrum time was thoughtful and helpful and while perhaps not always the answer, it has helped the public to understand referee sanction. 


In addition, the facility of a mark for aimless kicks downfield is better for the dynamic visual experience of a public which wants to grow with the sport.


The decision to trial the white card for decisions to be referred to the TMO must be applauded. It may be a few years too late, but better late than never. 


There are so many matches, often those at the top tier which have been decided by referee error, I simply cannot believe that it has taken this long. It's not the poor referees fault, we all make mistakes. It is a failing on the part of administration to understand the direction and needs of the modern game. 


In essence the white card will allow the captains of a team to question referee inaccuracy when points are scored and thus help the credibility of not only the officials who are constantly under the pump, but the credibility of the game as a whole. Each captain will have one challenge per half. If he uses it frivolously, he loses it. If he wins the challenge, he can use it again and again.


What this will do is cater for a greater degree of accuracy on the part of officials, and will be an inclusive management tool which will make the players feel as if they are part of the decision making (around points scoring). 


It will also have the effect of eradicating officials who are not up to it. If referees keep getting it wrong, they will no longer be used in time. Poor performances will become glaringly obvious, and the public will feel a lot closer to the game. 


I think it may even have the effect of allowing the public to understand the game better, and perhaps not moan so much on post match forums.


There is obviously the danger that the game could become stop-start as a result of these challenges, but that is surely a small price to pay on the odd occasion, whereas the gains are increased accuracy in a game where the margins are often really tight. 


Accuracy and consistency of decision making are areas of the game where big strides need to be made. It may even act as an educational tool for the administrators to highlight to all stakeholders what the laws actually are and how they are being applied.


I'm really looking forward to seeing some improvement in the two referee system next season as the administrators have had time to work out what the challenges of this system are, and I hope they use more experienced officials in order to maximize the benefits of the system. But this will be nothing compared to the potential gains associated with collaborative and inclusive management of the game. 


By Jonathan Kaplan



For more of Kaplan's views visit his website Rate the Ref


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