Whilst our New Zeeland Super 14 coaches have given the new law interpretations the thumbs up, South African coaches have expressed concern. The referee has become a very important deciding factor in any rugby game and for some – they might have too big an influence!
Whilst the 3rd referee, assistant referees and the technology to view whether a try has been scored might provide some assistance, the human element in making split –second decisions will never be removed from the game.
Al Pacino in his famous pre-match speech in “Any Given Sunday” mentioned that a game and life depends on inches. A game of rugby also depends on spit second decisions – and the decision to award or not award a penalty and the opportunity for points may decide the outcome of many games. Even though referees will strive towards consistency in making decisions, it is to be expected that they might differ slightly in their interpretation on the field of play. These different interpretations may result in a team winning or losing a very important match! So what are the teams and coaches to do?
Apart from regular communication with the top referees and getting coaches involved in pre-match planning, coaches will use video analysis to study the referees. With access to video analysis of a few games officiated by a specific referee, coaches and analysts will spot trend and patterns in the manner a specific coach interprets specific situations at the breakdowns etc.
Some referees will communicate more than other on the field. Some may alert specific players to move away from the ball whilst others might warn less and penalize without the prior warnings. It is important for player not only to play to the game but also to the referee. Analysis of the referee is now an important component of the game – Teams will seek to find the strengths and weaknesses of referees and those areas where they may apply special focus!
By communicating this to the players, the team might be able to reduce the penalty count by approaching their play with more confidence and awareness of where the line is to be drawn! Effective analysis of referees is needed to play the game within the rules and the interpretation of referees. The teams who neglect this will do so at their peril and be on the receiving end of penalties that could cost them many a match!