Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Sanzar backs Reds hosting rights

Sanzar boss Greg Peters has defended the advantages for Super 15 conference winners such as the Reds, even though they picked up the least points of the six teams in the playoffs. Photo / Getty Images
Sanzar boss Greg Peters has defended the advantages for Super 15 conference winners such as the Reds, even though they picked up the least points of the six teams in the playoffs. Photo / Getty Images

Sanzar boss Greg Peters has defended the advantages for Super 15 conference winners such as the Reds, even though they picked up the least points of the six teams in the playoffs.

But under the series rules, the Reds - as section winners in Australia - will host the second quarter-final on Saturday, forcing the Sharks to travel to Brisbane.

When the Blues squashed the Brumbies and left them without a bonus point, the Reds claimed the Australian conference with a bonus-point 32-16 win against the Waratahs.

Sanzar's argument is based on delivering a balanced broadcasting coverage for the finals' series which traverses New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

While New Zealand and Australia will have primetime television viewing this weekend, South Africa is guaranteed the same assistance next week when the Stormers host their semifinal in Cape Town.

"The outcome which has occurred could happen to any one of the countries," Peters said.

"It is the way the structure is designed to help with the broadcasting so there is a play-off match in each country."

Last season there was a more logical finish as the Reds, Stormers and Crusaders accumulated the most points as they won their conferences.

However this year the Stormers, Chiefs and Reds won their sections although the Reds accrued fewer points than the Crusaders, Bulls and Sharks.

"We have seen strong conferences in New Zealand and South Africa," Peters said, "but last year the Reds and Waratahs both qualified.

"It was great we had to wait until the final round to see how it all panned out."

The Chiefs missed out claiming the overall series lead when television match official Mike Fraser decided Hurricanes hooker Dane Coles had scored a winning try against them in extra time.

Sanzar game manager Lyndon Bray said his gut instinct was that the footage was inconclusive.

"Mike [Fraser] was adamant that part of the ball grazed the chalk on the second lunge," he said.

"I am not going to debate it until I see some footage on a high-definition screen. There was no problem about Coles getting the ball in goal, the question is whether he grounded it."

Referee Jonathan Kaplan asked Fraser to decide whether it was a try or no try and Bray said the TMO could have given a don't know response if he thought the footage was inconclusive.

Match officials needed to make decisions in real time and there would alway be debate about those judgments.

When players were tackled they were entitled to place the ball for a try even if it had already hit the ground. If it happened quickly in real time then the ball carrier had not infringed and the referee could award the try for what the public termed a double movement..

"A TMO cannot get involved in any issue before the tryline," Bray said.

"All he has to look at is did the player ground the ball or did he go out of play?"

Crusaders halfback Andy Ellis had scored a legitimate try the week before against the Chiefs when he was shunted across the line by Sam Whitelock but on Saturday night he did not score against the Force, although it was awarded.

"That was clearly a wrong decision by the TMO, it should have been disallowed," Bray said.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said his squad were disappointed to lose successive tight games but they should have closed out the scrap with the Hurricanes.

Defeat had taught them that minor things made a huge difference.

Reviews of the 28-25 loss showed the Chiefs had made enough breaks but had not got enough support or players working off the ball to confuse defenders.

They had also worked around the fringes and got into space behind the Hurricanes but had not been able to then lift the tempo to take advantage.

"We also lacked discipline in the last five minutes. That has been a strong part of our game so we were disappointed," Rennie said.

The past few games had reinforced the Chiefs' ideas about selection of their 22 players for their semifinal.

However it had not clarified the decisions made by the television match officials.

The issue was bound to be a topic at the head of Sanzar's list when coaches, officials, referees and players held a debrief late this year.

Bray felt Super 15 referees had performed strongly before the June test window but had not been as sharp since.

"There have been some really tricky decisions, they have been really tight when you watch them in real time," he said.

"TMOs are not perfect when it comes to applying judgment and depending on what question they are asked."

Reds five-eighth Quade Cooper's hopes of playing against the Sharks rests with a Sanzar judicial hearing this afternoon. Cooper was sin-binned and cited for a high tackle on Waratahs centre Berrick Barnes on Saturday.

A Sanzar statement said Cooper was alleged to have contravened Law 10.4 when he tackled Barnes in the 63rd minute, making contact above the line of the shoulders.

What happens next:

Saturday
Crusaders (finished 4th overall) v Bulls (5th), Christchurch, 7.35pm
Reds (3rd) v Sharks (6th), Brisbane, 9.35pm
Stormers and Chiefs - bye

Weekend of July 21-22
Stormers v lower-ranked winner, Cape Town, TBC
Chiefs (2nd) to host higher-ranked winner, Waikato Stadium, TBC

Final - August 4

- NZ Herald

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