What will it take? A broken neck? A career-ending concussion?

Rugby must take an urgent look at the aerial contest rules, after more casualties and confusion in the best game of the latest Super round. At the very least, a review is in order. Now.

We are on the verge of carnage already - a rule change forcing bomb chasers to back off completely must be considered.

It is reaching a point where you can barely look some of the time, knowing the extreme risks players are taking. Watching a head slamming into the ground from a three metre drop is a sickening sight.


There are strong safety rules banning significant contact at lineouts, yet in comparison it's almost "anything goes" in open field.

Mid-season rule changes are not ideal, but when players' health and careers are at stake it's worth contemplating. How many broken brains and bones will it take? The bottom line is this: the rules are not preventing horrific injuries.

The clash in Dunedin between the Crusaders and Highlanders was a thrilling epic - it turned into a magnificent contest, with a tremendous comeback by the visitors after a frantic initial half hour full of mistakes and penalties.

Yes, stirring stuff, a testament to the power of local derbies and the quality of New Zealand players, and an antidote to the depressingly large Hurricanes victory over the Rebels which highlighted what everybody knows - Super Rugby has too many flaws.

The Dunedin result probably swung on the 73rd minute sin binning of Malakai Fekitoa, for an illegal aerial challenge in which he was watching, and trying to catch, the ball.

The situation is so dire that those in charge could start by immediately canvassing coaches about how they view the current rules. The way these rules are affecting the outcome of games is of secondary importance right now - safety is the issue.

The Highlanders, and maybe the All Blacks, have already lost Ben Smith after he plummeted to the ground, with his head slamming into the turf, during the opening round loss to the Chiefs. Smith suffered his fourth concussion in five years.

On Saturday night, Crusaders flanker Jordan Taufua crashed from a great height and suffered upper body damage after flying into Lima Sopoaga, whose eyes were following the ball. Taufua continued on, but did leave the game relatively early, in the 45th minute.


Late in the match, Crusaders fullback David Havili also slammed down from a great height, lay prone for some time, and was taken away for a concussion check. Fekitoa was yellow carded for his part in the incident.

Rugby would be negligent in the extreme if it thought there was not at least an issue to investigate.

Greatly increased athleticism and strength brings increased dangers. Forty years ago, rugby players barely left the ground. Nowadays they can fly about like Aussie Rules stars.

But unlike in the AFL, union players run at speed towards each other. The modern bomb kickers are extremely accurate, meaning lots of contests.

The game cannot allow players to keep falling from a great height.

I thought the incident involving Taufua was potentially the more dangerous one, but there was no penalty given. Sopoaga had gone into the contest, for a shallow bomb launched by Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall, and Taufua came a cropper because he had leapt higher.

The players are being asked to jump into dangerous situations with their eyes on the ball, while running the rule book through their head. They are being asked to protect opponents in the air when it's hard enough protecting themselves. Bottom line: it's not working to a dangerous degree.