Ollie Ritchie: Super Rugby Pacific delivers improved product in opening round

OPINION: Super Rugby Pacific has enjoyed as strong a start as it could ask for in 2024 and there are a few reasons for that.  

To start, there was significantly less intervention from the Television Match Official (TMO) across the six fixtures in week one of the new competition.  

In the past, the TMO had the power to intervene directly to referees and look for reasons to bring play back to earlier incidents, such as a knock-on or forward pass.  

Chiefs celebrate a try against the Crusaders.
Chiefs celebrate a try against the Crusaders. Photo credit: Getty Images

Those days are now gone. TMOs can now only intervene in the instance of clear and obvious foulplay, or when called on by the onfield referee.

Week one saw the odd instance of that taking place, but across the board, the TMO's impact on Super Rugby was significantly reduced.  

As a result, we saw much quicker games, notably in the Blues' 31-10 victory over Fijian Drua, where the first half was completed in just 42 minutes, as an indicator of letting play flow.

The one blight on the weekend came in the season opener, where newly implemented 'smart' mouthguards resulted in Anton Lienert-Brown of the Chiefs and Quinton Strange of the Crusaders sent for head injury assessments, despite showing no concussion symptoms.

In particular, Lienert-Brown's withdrawal left frustrations, coming as the Chiefs trailled 29-27 in the final minutes and forcing Clayton McMillan's side to finish with 14 men. 

That can be boiled down to a case of Bluetooth malfunction.  

Essentially, the smart mouthguards send data to a tablet device on the sidelines to monitor impact to the head for players, but Friday night saw delays in the delivery of the data.   

At one point during the match, both Lienert-Brown and Strange did require concussion tests, but their respective headknocks occurred much earlier in the contest. 

Ollie Ritchie is Newshub's rugby reporter