Rugby: Kiwi coaches hail Super Rugby law changes as competition looks to speed up game

Super Rugby coaches have thrown their support behind the introduction of new law variations that will be trialled during the upcoming season.

The initiatives are aimed at speeding up the game and removing the influence of the Television Match Official (TMO), something coaches feel has been hampering the game for too long.

It's become a common occurrence in rugby, seeing referees referring often to the TMO to check decisions.

Referee Ben O'Keeffe shows a yellow card.
Referee Ben O'Keeffe shows a yellow card. Photo credit: Photosport

"There's a point there where the touchies (touch judges) and the TMO and everyone would have an opinion on everything," said Blues coach Leon MacDonald.

"That's not good for the game. We're trying to get the right decisions, but it's taking too long."

To avoid more of that, a raft of law variations are being introduced to speed up the game.

They include:

Shot Clocks for conversions and penalties, as well as scrums and lineouts.

Designated water breaks are scrapped - except under extreme heat guidelines.

And crucially, intervention by the TMO will be reduced outside of clear dangerous play.

"Referees are the boss out there," continued MacDonald. "They should be confident to make the big decisions and back themselves."

Super Rugby bosses are also out to improve the product. So - after featuring in the 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa season - golden point returns in the hope of reducing the number of drawn matches.

"If you look at every sport, there's always innovations," said Crusaders coach Scott Robertson.

"You have to evolve. Protect the core part of your sport, but then try and evolve."

Another change comes at scrum time. Halfbacks are no longer allowed to pressure the opposition's ability to clear the ball, in the hopes of presenting a more stable base to attack from.

"It brings powerful No.8s back into the game," explained Moana Pasifika's Aaron Mauger. "Eights off the scrum again - so that's an exciting feature that we look forward to."

With another round of law variations, exciting is just what Super Rugby bosses are hoping the game will be this year.