Players and supporters need to familiarise themselves with World Rugby’s foul play rules, writes former Springbok STEFAN TERBLANCHE.
What a difference six weeks can make; not only to the results and complete overhaul of the World Rugby rankings, but also to the confidence and belief of a rugby nation. Many now feel that the Boks potentially have the team and players to lift the Webb Ellis Cup on 2 November in Japan.
I love looking back at history and previous results. We will see that the Boks won in 1995, and again 12 years later in 2007. If I calculate correctly, 2019 is exactly 12 years down the line, so I hope history repeats itself!
In Tests against Australia, the All Blacks suffered their biggest defeat during the Rugby Championship, and very few people would have been brave enough to wager any money on such a result. Are we starting to see an All Blacks team at the end of their decade-long reign as the No 1 team in the world?
Or are we conveniently forgetting the difference it makes to play with 14 men at Test level – even for the best team in the world – as was the case when Scott Barrett was red-carded just before half time? If we had any doubt about the above question, it’s fair to say the All Blacks well and truly provided the answer with a proper Aussie whipping in Auckland to retain the Bledisloe Cup yet again.
For the first time since the introduction of the world ranking system, Wales moved to the No 1 position and if anything, this will give us probably the most open race in World Cup history.
I will serve as a member of World Rugby’s judicial committee in Japan, and it’s important to unpack the Barrett incident and the disciplinary process that followed. The All Blacks lock was sent off by French referee Jerome Garces and, according to the rules of World Rugby, he got it absolutely spot-on. Where foul play or suspected foul play is reviewed, the officials need to ask only the questions according to the letter of World Rugby law:
1. Was there any contact to the head or neck area?
2. Was there a significant amount of force?
3. Are there any mitigating factors that should be taken into account?
The sending-off, like so many in any Test match, sparked a heated debate on how to handle incidents like these on and off the field.
Many suggest that players should be sent off, but allowed to be replaced immediately, or to play with 14 men for 10 minutes to keep it a fair contest. The guilty party should then be allowed to defend himself in front of a judicial panel after the game.
Spectators and fans feel that they pay a good amount of money to watch these superstars play and don’t want to be watching an unfair contest.
Don’t get me started on ticket prices, about which former Bok coach Nick Mallett lost his job, but I wholeheartedly believe that players and teams should be penalised for foul play immediately on the field of play.
If someone is only punished for 10 minutes or effectively not at all during a game, I have no doubt players and teams will try to manipulate this rule and will get away with absolute murder. They already push the boundaries in all other aspects just to get that 1% of an edge that could make the difference between winning and losing at that level.
The most important point I am trying to make is that all players and management should take the time to familiarise and educate themselves on foul play rules. Too often we say we didn’t know or weren’t told. At professional level you can’t leave anything to chance. Considering all the hours the players spend on preparing in all other areas of the game, not knowing the exact nature of the laws that can get you sent off, and possibly banned from the tournament, would be unforgivable.
The last thing we want is for a red card to determine the winner, or should I rather say the loser, of a World Cup.
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
*Terblanche is a former Springbok who earned 37 Test caps. He is now the CEO of the SA Rugby Legends Association and will serve as a member of World Rugby’s judicial committee at the 2019 World Cup. His column was brought to you by Tuttle Insurance Brokers.