Rugby has gone card crazy

Adam Julian Roar Guru

By Adam Julian, Adam Julian is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger


141 Have your say

    In 141 Super Rugby matches this year there were 143 yellow cards. That’s an average of one a game and an increase of 49 on the 2016 tally of 94.

    The desire to remove cynical and foul play with tougher sanctions is of course honourable. Greater penalties for head contact will make the game safer, but with an average of a yellow card a match is the fairness of the contest and the quality of the spectacle being reduced by over cautious officiating?

    Removing a player is a penalty that carries huge consequences. It opens up more space in the opposition defence and saps the energy of others as it forces each individual to work harder.

    It’s not a surprise five of the six least disciplined teams in 2017 finished in the bottom third of the competition. Would the Lions have really drawn the series against the All Blacks if the latter wasn’t reduced to 14 players for 65 minutes?

    The referees aren’t entirely at fault for the proliferation of cards. They are under instructions from lawmakers to be vigilant and not consider intent. There job is tough and with decreasing numbers of referees at grassroots level, I am reluctant to be too critical. However there must be a way of being vigilant and retaining 15 players on 15.

    In the NRL only 36 players have been sin binned this year and even that is remarkably high. The harsher laws around slapping the ball down have seen more players sin binned in 2017 than the previous two years combined. Granted rugby is less structured and has more intricate laws, but the NRL invariably remains numerically even.

    Australian rules football has flourished for 120 years without cards. Acts of foul play have occurred, but been dealt with by the judiciary. Rugby has a judiciary. Why not increase the penalties for foul play at the judiciary? Perhaps players and even franchises can be fined for abuse of the laws.

    Could rugby adopt football’s yellow card system where a yellow card would be a serious warning and red cards are issued sparingly?

    Why not make greater use of the penalty try? If a team repeatedly infringes a penalty try could be rewarded regardless of where play is on the field. Conceding points would be a massive deterrent.

    Beauden Barrett was sent off for the Hurricanes against the Waratahs for slapping the ball down twice and then yellow carded in the semi-final for sealing off the ball. These aren’t malicious acts. Why not reward a penalty try instead of depriving millions of spectators the chance to watch the world’s best player? As a shareholder in the game we want to see the best players on the field the whole time.

    The issuing of cards in rugby has become to arbitrary and pedantic. If on average every game sees a player carded teams should start training with 14 men to better prepare themselves for the inevitable card. If that happens the the rules are flawed even before kick-off.

    Rugby needs to discuss how to keep the players on the field while retaining a safe and entertaining spectacle. Rugby is a 15-man sport.

    Getting hassled by a parent or partner about spending too much time playing video games? Now, you can tell them the story of how some ordinary gamers scored $225k for just seven weeks of work.

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    The Crowd Says (141)

    • August 8th 2017 @ 7:33am
      Kane said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      Greater penalties for head contact will make the game safer,

      Well according to World Rugby’s study 70% of concussions happen on the person making the tackle.

      So clamping down on high tackles can at best remove 30% of concussions. (Actually not all 30% of concussions were due to being tackled high, just they were carrying the ball at the time)

      Had they gone down the correct route and put time effort and money into teaching proper techniques for tackling then they could have reduced far more concussions than the willy nilly yellow cards that are being thrown around now.

      Rugby is and always will be a contact sport. Fair enough penalise all contact to the head but only yellow card them if it is really dangerous or malicious. Someone getting an arm to the head because they’ve ducked into a tackle should not warrant a yellow.

      • Roar Guru

        August 8th 2017 @ 9:11am
        PeterK said | August 8th 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

        Agree with most of this except I would add carding them if it is reckless.

        An example is a very hard driving tackle starting at the shoulders and it drives up into the head, like the game in dublin.

        That deserves a yellow even if there was no intent , since no action by the ball carrier put them into that position.

        • August 8th 2017 @ 11:58am
          Kane said | August 8th 2017 @ 11:58am | ! Report

          Thanks PeterK

          If you’re talking about Sam Cane’s hit on Robbie Henshaw I have to disagree, the way he spun out of one tackle into Sam was unfortunate, I can’t agree that it was malicious or reckless.

          • August 8th 2017 @ 6:34pm
            ClarkeG said | August 8th 2017 @ 6:34pm | ! Report

            Agree – if that is the incident he is meaning then it is not a good example.

        • Roar Guru

          August 8th 2017 @ 12:47pm
          Jokerman said | August 8th 2017 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

          They need consistency because it has such a huge consequence. The Barrett yellow was not worthy of a penalty and that yellow effectively cost the ‘Canes the game.

          A more black and white clarity with the cards. A head high is a yellow everytime would be fine…but at the moment sometimes, sometimes not. A slap of the ball usually a card but in the recent semi with the ‘Canes against the Lions no card for the Lions indiscretion. So that needs to be defined.

          But we have Super, Northern, Southern Hemisphere and it gets mashed together and we have ambiguity.

          The red in the final was worthy. Rugby just needs to have more clarity and consistency so the players and fans know, and then can adapt, and effectively reduce the cards…and that’s what we all want.

          • August 8th 2017 @ 1:23pm
            Kane said | August 8th 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

            I disagree that Barrett’s yellow wasn’t even worthy of a penalty. That was definitely a penalty and half the time a yellow.

            I see where you’re coming from consistency wise but that’s a penalty everyday of the week.

            • Roar Guru

              August 8th 2017 @ 1:41pm
              Jokerman said | August 8th 2017 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

              Yeah it was 50/50 penalty I thought. He rolled away, and the ball got caught up in his legs I think. But not a yellow, and the game is decided on a poor call by the ref.

              I would like the captain to be able to review two decisions every game, and take it to the TMO to decide. In that scenario Barrett would stay.

              • August 8th 2017 @ 5:05pm
                Bakkies said | August 8th 2017 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

                ‘ He rolled away, and the ball got caught up in his legs I think. But not a yellow, and the game is decided on a poor call by the ref.’

                He turned it over after a linebreak about 10 metres from his own try line. Peyper explained it when he issued the card. Yellow any day of the week.

              • August 8th 2017 @ 7:27pm
                Hannes said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

                Bakkies you are spot on. It one of four offenses from the Canes that could have been carded.

              • August 8th 2017 @ 7:56pm
                ClarkeG said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:56pm | ! Report

                And you were asked more than once Hannes to elaborate on those points but as far as I am aware you never did.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 8:53am
                Jacko said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

                Hannes they missed 6 from the Lions so it almost evens out eh?

                That was so easy to write without having to back it up with any facts

            • August 8th 2017 @ 2:19pm
              timber said | August 8th 2017 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

              Certainly a penalty but no way a yellow.
              BB did everything right, scrambled to get out of the way but had the ball placed on him.
              Accusations of deliberate intent are unsupported, it would be just an easy to claim the Lions deliberating placed the ball on him to elicit a penalty.

              • Roar Guru

                August 8th 2017 @ 7:12pm
                Jokerman said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:12pm | ! Report

                Yeah you go tell that Bakkie guy. He’s got some problems.

              • August 8th 2017 @ 11:06pm
                Bakkies said | August 8th 2017 @ 11:06pm | ! Report

                Reading through tons of posts from Kiwis defending and deflecting cynical and foul play does give you problems.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 5:16am
                Rt said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:16am | ! Report

                Like 1/2 backs passing into a player? Still a penalty.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 8:05am
                Kane said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:05am | ! Report

                I’d like to see halfbacks who deliberately through the ball into someone to milk a penalty penalised themselves for not playing in the spirit of the game.

                A few years ago Genia in Dunedin milked one by throwing it into Tony Woodcock as he was retreating. The only problem was that he had to throw it forward to hit him.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 8:16am
                Jerry said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:16am | ! Report

                Or that one in the 3rd Lions test where the HB had to direct a pass towards the ground beside him in order to have it collide with Wyatt Crockett. Hate those penalties.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 1:06pm
                ClarkeG said | August 9th 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

                Yes Kane…I agree with that. Sometimes we hear referees warn players for doing exactly that but I can’t recall too many, if any, players being penalised for it.

                As it turned out Jerry that was quite an important penalty. What I thought about that penalty was that the referee showed little or no no interest in what was happening there until Webb threw the ball into Crockett’s bottom.

      • August 8th 2017 @ 3:43pm
        zhenry said | August 8th 2017 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

        14/15 makes for a hollow victory.
        Some kind of combination of the following:
        *Penalty during game, perpetrater informed also judiciary issue.
        *If someone is injured and taken off, then perpetrater removed and replacement from bench used (in both cases).
        *If deemed deserved player is also fined / *Repetition the team is also fined with higher amount / *Repetition player is banned for so many games.
        *The amount of the fine and banned games can be increased for more levels of being penalised.
        The above should replace cards but if cards is the vote then *only a yellow card used sparingly if it is serious. No red cards.

        • Roar Rookie

          August 8th 2017 @ 6:38pm
          ChrisG said | August 8th 2017 @ 6:38pm | ! Report

          Surely the biggest deterrent for a player is to penalise both him and his team when he infringes. Also I’m not sure that reducing a team’s numbers always determines the outcome of a game. There was a game between the Crusaders and Sharks a couple of years ago where the Sharks won with 13 men, and there are numerous examples of teams being reduced to 14 players in the last 10 minutes of a close game and still winning.
          All options you suggest would appear to offer some disincentive to players in this situation, however we still have players infringing when surely the current red card scenario offers the same disincentive.

          • August 8th 2017 @ 10:43pm
            zhenry said | August 8th 2017 @ 10:43pm | ! Report

            There are the exceptions and even less so in finals and internationals, especially where teams are well matched – 14 / 15 is definitely a disadvantage in such cases.
            What I am suggesting has not been tried; a serious effort to use a combination of penalty, fines and game banning, but more so fines including the perpetrators team – coaching to the law might become the norm rather than pushing the limits.
            Are cards working? Because most of the actions are impulsive there seems to be a limit to it.
            Also keeping the full team numbers lessens the problem of one players indiscretion wrecking the whole game.

            • August 9th 2017 @ 8:59am
              Jacko said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

              Sorry Z but that seems to be rewarding the team whose player committed the Red card act.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 1:54pm
                zhenry said | August 10th 2017 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

                Written from iPhone so not best expression.
                No ‘Oracle’ instead of cards we use fines and judiciary, think it’s worth trying.
                A bit outside square I know.
                OK for prof rugby but amateur rugby will need form of cards – red card used very sparingly with replacement player from bench.
                I see no point in punishing whole team for one players fault.
                We should have the flexibility to juggle for best outcome, it will take time.

    • August 8th 2017 @ 7:35am
      Adsa said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

      Probably an over exaggeration Adam, the Reds this year got about 100 cards so the rest of the conferences managing 40 or so is not too bad.

      • Roar Guru

        August 8th 2017 @ 8:31am
        Ralph said | August 8th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

        LOL – Poor Red’s fans must be the very definition of long suffering!

      • August 8th 2017 @ 3:52pm
        cuw said | August 8th 2017 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

        Name pc y r
        Blues 119 5 2
        Sunwolves 125 5 1
        Rebels 127 9 1
        Brumbies 128 6 0
        Bulls 131 4 2
        Highlanders 134 7 1
        Cheetahs 138 6 1
        Reds 141 13 1
        Waratahs 142 12 0
        Stormers 143 7 1
        Sharks 151 7 1
        Force 154 10 0
        Lions 154 7 2
        Hurricanes 156 12 1
        Jaguares 158 12 0
        Kings 163 11 0
        Crusaders 169 6 0
        Chiefs 169 7 0

        the penalty count , yellows and reds is not easy to demarcate.

        among the most penalized 6 teams , there are 4 teams who were in the finals rounds and infact the finalists.

        among the least penalized 6 teams there are 2 of the final round teams as well as the teams who were at the bottom of the table.

        the problem is penalties and cads are dependent on the ref of the day. there was nothing super about reffing this season. Joubert was missed – despite his tendency to make up laws as he went on 🙂

        • August 8th 2017 @ 11:09pm
          Bakkies said | August 8th 2017 @ 11:09pm | ! Report

          ‘Hurricanes 156 12 1’

          Astounding for a back, Barrett racked up 4 of those yellows.

          • August 9th 2017 @ 5:19am
            Rt said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:19am | ! Report


          • August 9th 2017 @ 9:02am
            Jacko said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

            Yes he has amazing involvement doesnt he!!!!

          • August 9th 2017 @ 1:12pm
            ClarkeG said | August 9th 2017 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

            And only the 2nd against the Waratahs the officials got right.

    • August 8th 2017 @ 7:52am
      Hannes said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      The number of cynical offenses that goes unpunished is also a problem. If you know that 1/6 cynical offenses will result in a card when there is a 50% chance that a try can be scored, it is still worth it to take the risk thr yellow card instead of the try. Especially early in the game you can act dumb and innocent and only get a warning. There are a few players that have a promising acting career ahead of them….BB.
      Maybe handing out cards without warnings for cynical offenses when it is clear an obvious will tip the balance. A penalty try is a poor substitute for a real try.

      • August 8th 2017 @ 7:59am
        Fionn said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

        But then you get truly ridiculous ones like that Eto Nabuli (I think it was him) YC for tackling that Jaguares bloke in such a way that he knocked the ball out of his hand when wrapping around the body.

        Referee said that it was an intentional knock on. Ridiculous.

        We need more YCs against players cynically killing the attack in the red zone. The second Waratahs-Rebels match was ridiculous.

        • August 8th 2017 @ 8:05am
          Kane said | August 8th 2017 @ 8:05am | ! Report

          That sounds rough, I’d go as far as to encourage knocking the ball out of a players hands. The onus should be on the ball carrier and ball security.

          • August 8th 2017 @ 7:05pm
            ClarkeG said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:05pm | ! Report

            Consequence…players swinging forearms and punching in an attempt to dislodge the ball from the carriers grasp.

            Defending a lineout…just jump and punch the ball forward out of the catchers grip.

            Bad idea.

            • August 9th 2017 @ 8:13am
              Kane said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:13am | ! Report

              Swinging forearms is up there with the stupidest rule in rugby.

              When I dive to tackle someone my forearms “swing” as I’m wrapping them.

              Punching isn’t allowed anyway so punching at the ball should be a penalty. Only allow openhand plays.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 12:55pm
                ClarkeG said | August 9th 2017 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

                My point was that a consequence would be that defenders will attempt to strike the ball from the ball carriers grasp – striking with arm or punching – irrespective of whether or not they are attempting a tackle.

                So you are suggesting I can knock a ball intentionally forward from a ball carriers grasp (open hand only) but not punch it intentionally forward from a ball carriers grasp.

                That’s just making the referee’s job harder. Best leave as it is at present..i.e it is a penalisable offence to intentionally knock the ball forward.

        • Roar Guru

          August 8th 2017 @ 9:14am
          PeterK said | August 8th 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

          i would go further, every single cynical infringement i.e clear and obvious and intent should be a yc regardless of field position.

          Every single time a player is on the ground in a ruck (not jackaling and a knee rests, but lying on a player) and playing at the ball. A player 3 metres offside, evrytime a player is held back in backplay etc.

          That would clean up play a lot.

          • August 8th 2017 @ 2:35pm
            timber said | August 8th 2017 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

            The problem being, what is judged as clear and obvious cynical intent differs from one person to another.
            BBs YC in the semi was a good example. Some people are claiming he deliberately cradled the ball between his legs but then some people believe in the devil.
            If it was a call in isolation from Pepyer then I think it unreasonable, if it was a team yellow from repeat infringements I still think it unreasonable given it wasn’t humanly impossible for BB to do anything else.

            • August 9th 2017 @ 7:23am
              YeahRight said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:23am | ! Report

              The deliberate knock on law is one of the worst laws and poorly judged by refs. More often than not a player is trying to not only tackle the player, but prevent them passing the ball. That is the nature of the game and the attacking player knows a delay risks not being able to make the pass, or they need to pass earlier. Timing of the pass is critical and the most entertaining part of the game. I can see coaches teaching tbeir players to delay the pass and time it to hit a would be tacklers arm. Often these miss-timed poor passes lead to both a yellow card to tackler and a penalty try. A double hit of such magnitude not only ruins the contest but is rewarding the wrong team for an inability to time their pass.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 1:16pm
                ClarkeG said | August 9th 2017 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

                But if the law is removed just sit back and watch the consequences.

          • August 8th 2017 @ 7:33pm
            Hannes said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:33pm | ! Report

            I agree Peter. Let’s play within the laws of the game. That is why they are there. The tendency to push the ref to see what you can get away with is half of the problem

        • August 8th 2017 @ 6:57pm
          ClarkeG said | August 8th 2017 @ 6:57pm | ! Report

          I think you are being way too generous to Nabuli regards that incident. It should probably have also been a penalty try.

          I felt that was a clear case of a player intentionally knocking a pass forward.

      • August 9th 2017 @ 9:06am
        Jacko said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:06am | ! Report

        What a dirty player eh…Lets stamp out those ball slappers but all good on a bloke taking out someones legs when they are 6 feet in the air as the injuries from ball slapping are horrendous

    • Columnist

      August 8th 2017 @ 8:05am
      Brett McKay said | August 8th 2017 @ 8:05am | ! Report

      One card a game in Super Rugby is a welcome increase on the last few seasons where the average was down around a card every second game and cynical infringements were rife.

      The sooner players (and coaches) realise that the risk of losing a player for a period of time is greater, cynical infringements will decrease, and hot damn, the game might just flow a lot better…

      • August 8th 2017 @ 12:02pm
        RedandBlack said | August 8th 2017 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

        Except cards have been around for a few years now and despite coming out with ever increasing frequency there is no sign of your predictions coming true. Your position is the same one govts take when their policies are failing – ok well we’ll do it more and harder, then it will work. But it won’t because of the nature of the game and the players – contest is what they do – contest all the way. I have no problem with the odd yellow after a warning or a red for dirty or dangerous play, although the player should be replaced after 10 or so. People pay to see a contest, players want a fair competition. Cards fail to deliver on all fronts. The judiciary can deal with serious matters post game and we can still have a valid competitive game. There is no need to shoot ourselves in both feet as we currently are doing.

        • August 8th 2017 @ 12:31pm
          Fionn said | August 8th 2017 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

          ‘People pay to see a contest, players want a fair competition.’

          Cynical infringements are the number one barrier to contests or competition.

          • August 8th 2017 @ 1:00pm
            RedandBlack said | August 8th 2017 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

            No – one team having an unfair advantage is the No. 1 barrier to contests or competition.

            • August 8th 2017 @ 1:07pm
              Fionn said | August 8th 2017 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

              I completely disagree. It is possible to have a team with 14 men play attacking rugby and score points and tries.

              However, if a team is getting away with cynical offences and receiving nothing but penalties it simply means that the opportunity for a try is lost, or we set up for the rolling maul rinse and repeat rubbish that wastes 5-10 minutes. I hate it.

              • August 8th 2017 @ 2:21pm
                RedandBlack said | August 8th 2017 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

                Fair enough – and I hate one team having an artificial advantage that they haven’t earned. It goes against all the principles of fairness in sport. To be clear here – no one is arguing that the issues raised on this forum in support of cards – pro fouls, foul play and dangerous play – should not be addressed but we are saying more cards, more skewed games and more dubious results are not the way to address them.

              • August 8th 2017 @ 2:30pm
                Fionn said | August 8th 2017 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

                I agree, mate, neither is a good outcome.

                But it’d be nice if they came down so hard on cynical infringements that people would stop doing it.

        • August 8th 2017 @ 7:11pm
          ClarkeG said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:11pm | ! Report

          Yes it can be argued that an increase in YCs is proof that it’s not working.

    • Roar Guru

      August 8th 2017 @ 8:31am
      Nobrain said | August 8th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      As a former fullback my life would have been easier with the new rules. The fact that the possibilty of benig taken in the air while going for the ball forced me to,stay with both feet on the ground to catch the ball . I think the problem is the jump, eliminate the jump amd the danger will dissapear.

      • August 8th 2017 @ 10:59pm
        Baa said | August 8th 2017 @ 10:59pm | ! Report

        maybe i’m old… only in my 40’s, but i’m sure to take a mark back in the day you had to be grounded?

        i thought they changed the laws on that to enable taking a mark on the move thus removing the element of the taker getting lined up and smashed as he catches the ball?

        and yes i realize that is only relevant inside the 22.

        • Roar Guru

          August 9th 2017 @ 4:28am
          Nobrain said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:28am | ! Report

          They did. But it was much safer because with your feet on the ground you can bent backwards as you get hit. When you are in the air it is imposible to do that. The element of fear has to remain there, otherewise is a sure catch.

          • August 9th 2017 @ 9:08am
            Jacko said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

            There goes the Lineout…No jumping…

    • Roar Guru

      August 8th 2017 @ 8:56am
      Hoy said | August 8th 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

      if you take away the cards and increase the judiciary, you turn into League, which is a farce… the team with the knocked out bloke get no benefit whatsoever from the offender being on report. They play a man down, having their played cleaned up, and the opposition have a player on report, and the team playing them next week will benefit.

      The carding is fine. Players know what to expect… high shots get the bin, and are in danger of reds. Taking a player in the air, is a yellow minimum, possibly a red.

      Leave it alone. One a game is fine.

      • August 8th 2017 @ 6:27pm
        William Tell said | August 8th 2017 @ 6:27pm | ! Report

        There’s a thought – apply the penalty the next time the two teams meet.