The result of the 2017 Super Rugby final will always have an asterisk next to it in the minds of Lions supporters who believe their heroes would have beaten the Crusaders if Kwagga Smith hadn’t been sent off.
Ami Kapilevich and Zelím Nel debate whether red cards and the sin bin are effective measures to enforce the laws, or are they robbing spectators of the even contest they’ve paid to watch?
Ami says – Red cards are real life, get over it!
The moment Kwagga connected with Crusaders fullback David Havili, I knew it. Red. Harsh? Perhaps. Fair? Absolutely. The law is clear. Cue the wails of “that’s game over” and Johan Ackermann’s vinegary comment: “I don’t think 62,000 people paid to see a 15-versus-14 game.”
Really, coach? Fact is, 62,000 people paid to watch a game of rugby. And when heinous acts occur on the field, they must sometimes result in a 14-man team.
We need to be able to send players off because violent or repeated, and blatant, cynical play needs to be dealt with there and then, on the spot. And as Tank Lanning correctly points out: “It’s a team sport, so the punishment must be collective.”
Let’s not underestimate how much effect the prospect of a red card has when the red mist descends and the handbags come out. And let’s not be naïve about the lengths a player will go to prevent what could be a sure-thing try, especially in a final, when the threat of suspension afterwards is meaningless, and the stakes are so high.
Besides, red cards are hardly the game-killers that many make them out to be. Just last year the Springboks were defeated by Ireland who played with 14 men for 60 minutes. Later that year, England lost Elliot Daly in the 5th minute (and played with 13 men for 10 minutes) but still went on to beat Argentina 27-14. These things happen all the time.
So the sanction, while heavy, is not an absolute death sentence. It requires a change in strategy, certainly, but a good enough team will adapt – and the very best teams even rise to the challenge.
Zelím says – Make transgressors pay, not spectators!
Rugby is not an innovative sport. Desperately traditional and anti-change, the game was reluctantly dragged out of the 19th century in the mid-90s.
Where American football turned professional in the space of two decades, rugby needed more than 100 years to come to grips with the idea.
One of several facets that have been adopted from other sports is the yellow- and red-card system. The cards originated in soccer and the “sin bin” is from rugby league.
Unlike soccer, when a rugby player is shown the yellow card, he spends 10 minutes on the naughty chair.
In 142 Super Rugby matches this season, 143 yellows and 14 red cards were flashed at transgressing players. This makes the 15-versus-15, 80-minute contest an exception rather than the rule.
Some pundits have suggested that punishment should be reserved for after the match, to protect the parity of the contest. I think this would only incentivise spoiling tactics in the most important matches.
Here’s what I would like to see happen: Kwagga gets a red card for dangerous play and is ejected from the game, Cyle Brink replaces him and the Lions lose three seats on their bench.
So, in effect, the Lions go from having eight replacements to four. The contest remains 15 v 15, and the hosts lose part of their Highveld advantage because the Crusaders have four more pairs of fresh legs in the final quarter.
I’d apply the same thinking to yellow cards – Kwagga off for 10 minutes, Cyle Brink on, and the Lions lose one seat on the bench.
And for cards shown in the final quarter, there should be an automatic ban – one match for yellow, two for red – in addition to any post-game sanctions for foul play.
You’ve read what they think, now let us know where you stand in The Big Debate!