Sanzaar has slammed All Blacks star Ben Smith and put Super Rugby teams on notice, after the Highlanders co-captain stepped over the mark in protesting a referee non-call last weekend.
The veteran fullback remonstrated with Nick Briant over a potential knock-on that the official may have missed, a protest that hasn't impressed competition bosses.
“He had no right to go up and carry on in the way he did in that instance,” Sanzaar CEO Andy Marinos told Newshub.
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“When a try is scored and there’s communication going on, the ref needs to be left alone in order for that decision to be made.”
Smith appeared to convince Briant to review for a possible knock-on in the lead-up to the Crusaders’ second try. After a second look, the try was disallowed.
But any more of that carry-on will not be tolerated by Sanzaar.
“The worst-case scenario would be that player would be stood down or sent off the field at that time,” Marinos said.
“We don’t want this to become like soccer, where there’s [just] a screaming match,” he said.
But the Highlanders see nothing wrong with Smith’s actions and are standing by their man.
Assistant coach Glenn Delaney believes the relationship between captain and referee on the field is crucial.
“Players and referees - and the captain in particular - have the right to have communication on the field,” Delaney said. “They always do.
“It’s an integral part of our game, referees and captains finding a way to work together, and I think that’s what he was doing.”
This weekend, Smith will need to keep his chatter in check against the Hurricanes, who have had their own share of communication issues with referees.
Last year, stand-in skipper TJ Perenara was given a telling-off by Angus Gardner for yelling at him too much. Perenara insists this was directed at his own team, not at Gardner.
Later in the same game, Perenara successfully corrected Gardner’s ruling on a Reds penalty, a call that should’ve gone to the Hurricanes.
Either way, Hurricanes coaches won’t be encouraging players to get in the referee’s ear.
“We probably don’t tell our players too much about how to act around that,” assistant coach Jason Holland said.
“But you’ve got to make sure you can tweak things as much as you can, and Ben Smith was obviously smart and knew what had gone on,” he said.
But with all Super Rugby teams now on notice, approaching the refs won’t be the smartest move going forward.