Christopher Reive examines the pros and cons of the new Super Rugby regulations.
There have only been nine draws between Kiwi teams in Super Rugby history, two of which were cancelled games. The new rule would see the teams play a maximum of 10 extra minutes in which the first team to score points wins the contest.
Pros: A staple of rugby league, golden point brings extra excitement to a game in the balance. Not knowing who will get the chance at points first, how it will come and how long the period will last just add to the fun. Plus, it lends its hand to more bragging rights among rugby fans.
Cons: Unlike rugby league, and American football to a lesser extent, rugby does not have limited possessions. To introduce a next-point-wins rule to a game where one team can hold the ball for the entire time surely isn't the fairest way to settle things. Of course, said team has to convert their opportunity, but for the other side to not be guaranteed an opportunity of their own to return fire is amiss.
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Take the NFL for example. If the team with first possession gets a touchdown the game is over, but if they kick a field goal the opposition have one drive to answer. In the NFL, at least they're forced to progress down the field, with limited possession if they can't make any ground.
Verdict: Golden point can work for some sports, but rugby isn't one of them. A 10-minute period of extra time, allowing for response if necessary, seems a better option.
Replacing red carded players
Under the new rule, a team can replace a player who has been shown a red card after a 20 minute period. The player remains unable to return to the field.
Pros: As renowned sports commentator Nigel Yalden pointed out to me: "almost all red cards these days are for unintentional dangerous acts." Teams are often punished for a player contesting the football and just getting it completely wrong in execution. This new rule, allowing red carded players to be replaced after 20 minutes, takes some of the punishment off the team, while still allowing the opposition a decent time with a numbers advantage.
Cons: Being able to replace red carded players takes a big chuck of the threat of the punishment away. While in local derbies you would expect teams to take advantage of having a numbers advantage for 20 minutes, it's not out of the question for the undermanned team to hang on until they can bring a new player in. Depending on what time in the match the red card occurs, the depleted team could have time to try to spark a comeback.
Verdict: Initially skeptical, but it brings an interesting dynamic to the game. Yes.
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Breaking down the breakdown
The existing laws at the breakdown would be applied more strictly to create faster attacking ball and a fairer contest.
Pros: In a somewhat similar move to the NRL's new ruck penalty rules where a set is restarted rather than a penalty being awarded, this variation should help to speed up the game. Tacklers will have to roll away immediately and ball carriers will only be allowed one dynamic movement once hitting the ground. These will allow for much faster service for the halfback and in a time of running rugby should provide some entertainment for the fans. There will also be an extra focus on the offside line, with defenders needing to be "clearly onside" which is sure to please fans.
Cons: At least in the early going, it seems a stricter eye on the breakdown is going to lead to plenty of penalties; thus having somewhat of an opposite effect to what is intended. How strictly the breakdown and offside line are policed will have a significant impact on the game – the last thing rugby needs is more penalties being awarded when the goal is to speed up the game.
Verdict: A terrific move in theory, time will tell if it pays off.