There's still seven rounds of Super Rugby to go and already there have been more yellow cards shown in 2017 than there were in the whole of last year.

The red card total is also markedly higher in 2017 than it was last year, with nine having been shown compared with six.

Super Rugby, if the numbers are to be taken at face value, is wobbling on the discipline front.

The data suggests there has been an infestation of niggle; of boundary-pushing that sees more players lose sight of what's okay and what's not.


Yet, each weekend it doesn't feel like things are out of control.

Super Rugby doesn't appear to be a stomping ground for loose units and hot heads indulging in off-the-ball nonsense.

And that's because it's not. This proliferation of cards is more to do with a culture of near-paranoia within officialdom which started in a good place, but has possibly drifted too far.

Rugby definitely needed a clean-up, specifically the acceptable height of tackling.

In the past few years, there were too many heads being collected in the tackle. There were too many players being taken out in the air and there were too many cleanouts that looked more like potential assault cases than bona fide attempts to move opponents out the way.

Most of this became accepted through occurrence until World Rugby snapped late last year and decided it had to actively stamp out the high tackling, if nothing else.

Research had highlighted the dangers of high tackling and World Rugby, committed to lowering concussion rates, empowered referees to penalise all contact with the head.

What's seemingly happened, though, is that referees have veered from one extreme to the next.

From being overly tolerant in previous years, they are now of the view that anything remotely contentious should be looked at, with those involved likely to be guilty unless proven otherwise.

It is robbing the game of some of its essence. There has to be a happy medium where the heads of players can be adequately protected without the whole nature of the contest being affected.

Rugby doesn't need to have a brutish blood lust, but it does need some acceptance that physicality is at its soul.

There has to be a framework in which players can be uninhibited in the sense they can fully commit themselves to winning the ball or retaining it.

That isn't happening in Super Rugby at the moment. Players are increasingly reluctant to follow their instincts for fear they will be penalised or carded.

When players pull out of contests, it lessens the credibility of the exchange, and worse, increases the likelihood of injury.

There's no doubt there have been instances this year when players have assessed a situation and pulled out of competing for the ball. They have held back and, equally, it is probable that as more cards are shown for a wider range of so-called offences, coaches will over-preach the need for discipline. Within six months or so, rugby will be hard to distinguish from touch.

Everyone loves a review these days and the sooner Super Rugby's officials take stock, the better.