In the interests of fairness, Sanzaar deserves a little gold star for hatching a plan to fix its troubled judicial process this year.

The body that runs Super Rugby has made itself the easiest target in recent years by coming up with an unfathomable 18-team, conference format that neither makes sense nor seems fair. On top of that, they have previously run an equally clunky and random judicial process that has left some players shaking in their hands in dismay all the way to the airport and an overseas contract away from the madness.

But fair's fair, Sanzaar may have finally come up with a good idea, a couple actually, that could, for once, leave players and coaches satisfied they operate in a system that is consistent and sensible.

The first big change this year will be seen on the field as referees have been encouraged, empowered even, to make decisions based on what they think they have seen and not automatically refer everything to the Television Match Official. What that means is that if the referee or one of the assistant referees is not sure what may have happened and wants the TMO to review it, the process will be different. The referee will have to state what he thinks he saw and the TMO will only be able to overrule that if there is compelling evidence to do so.


In theory, that should end the need for the TMO to trawl through endless replays trying to determine whether a try has been scored or not. Instead, the referee will say that he thinks it was a try and the TMO will look only for an obvious reason to disagree. The intention is to speed the game up and cut back the length of time it takes for Super Rugby matches to play out.

While the playing time is only 80 minutes, frequently games last year were taking two hours from kick off to final whistle. The constant TMO reviews were the main driver of the added time with some incidents taking more than four minutes to sort out.

There were also several occasions where the TMO overruled the referee and others where the referee overruled the TMO.

The second change is the addition of what is effectively a full-time judicial committee to monitor and rule on foul play. A permanent three-man panel consisting of New Zealander Nigel Hampton QC, John Langford of Australia and Stefan Terblanche of South Africa will meet at the end of each round and review all incidents involving red cards and citing commissioner referals. They will then inform players within 24 hours if there is a case to be answered or need for a sanction to be imposed.

By having a permanent panel, Sanzaar hope they will have consistent outcomes and also decisions will be made quickly to allow players and coaches certainty around future availability.

As always, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, but certainly the system makes good sense and a major improvement on the existing way of doing things.