If Loffie Eloff is hauled before the Lions board at the end of the season, he may have reason to curse an uppity chartered accountant from New Zealand.
Kelvin Deaker was in charge of the Lions Super 14 match against Western Force last Friday, memorable only for Deaker’s clanger when he cancelled a perfectly good Lions try.
Clinton Van Der Berg writes in the Sunday Times that it should never have come to this. While the IRB fiddles and faffs with the laws, tweaking this and that, one of the more fundamental needs of the game goes unanswered — using video technology to help produce a better, more dynamic game. More importantly, using technology to make it a fairer contest.
Ellis Park was a case in point. Had there been an appeals system, even just a “second look” option for the incident, the error could have been corrected.
Deaker mistakenly thought Jano Vermaak had kicked the ball into a teammate and collected the rebound, from which Vermaak cantered through to score. The problem was that the ball had bounced off a Force player. The try should have stood and the Lions should have been 23-15 to the good. Instead, they lost 18-16 and now hit the road with almost no momentum.
Eloff was furious. He spoke to referees’ boss Andre Watson, who agreed an injustice had occurred. Moreover, the Force’s second try was also dodgy, courtesy of a forward pass.
Rugby’s macho way is to shrug such things off as a case of “tough luck”, but the game’s lawmakers would be well served to look more closely at two recent developments in international sport.
Professional tennis has adopted a system where players can appeal against line calls — two per set and another in a tiebreak, using the Hawk-Eye system. If the player is correct, the appeal count remains. If the player is wrong, one appeal falls away.
“It’s proven very successful,” said Ian Smith, CE of the SA Tennis Association. “It’s added a new dimension and helped because of the increased pace of the game.”
Even cricket, which has made more strides in the past five years than in the previous 100, is toying with giving players the right to appeal against decisions by on- field umpires, possibly as soon as South Africa’s Test series against England this year. Like tennis, there will be a limit on the number of appeals.
Two broad principles apply here: the need to embrace technology and the need to power up referees who increasingly look like fools when massive TV audiences benefit from slow-motion replays from multiple angles. It’s disingenuous to claim that technology is in danger of emasculating officials — telly refs have been in place for a few years now and have proven invaluable for try-scoring decisions. They’ve also added an element of excitement and tension.
The best-run leagues in world sport — the NFL and the NBA in the US — have appeal systems. American Football’s appeal system was adopted in 1999 and allows for two appeals a game by each coach. The referee has 60 seconds to watch the instant replay and decide if the original call was correct. Players often signal to the coach if they think a close call is worth challenging.
Instant replays are mandatory for NBA officials. Any basket or foul that occurs at the buzzer at the end of the quarter is automatically reviewed to determine if it occurred in regulation time. In addition, coaches are each allowed a single appeal. Last season, TV replays were also introduced to determine which players were involved in fights and dirty play.
Even American rodeo allows for riders to protest within 30 seconds of a decision. What follows is a quick TV review. The system doesn’t get out of hand because riders must pay a 500 deposit per appeal. If they’re right, they get their money back. If not, they forfeit the cash, which goes to charity. It’s smart and simple.
Those with blinkers on would probably give all sorts of arguments as to why an appeals system wouldn’t work in rugby.
But telly refs are already in place and the game hasn’t fallen to pieces. On the contrary, their introduction has proven wildly successful.
A small bit of tinkering could see telly refs lumped with the responsibility of dealing with an instant appeal for referees’ boo- boos. Rugby is constantly on the lookout for sexy new ways to jazz up the game. Adopting an appeals system — say two by each captain per game — would not only right the wrongs, it would add colour and excitement to even the dullest of games.
More than that, it would help referees undo their errors. Who knows, we may even grow to love them.Tweet