Super Rugby Aotearoa innovates, ignores ten law trial recommendations

Super Rugby Aotearoa is set to get underway in less than two weeks and come 13 June fans can expect plenty of innovation.

Novel features of the New Zealand-only tournament will be a golden point for tied matches, the replacement of red-carded players and the application of the breakdown laws.

World Rugby issued a set of recommendations to Unions including ten voluntary trial laws aimed at reducing inter-player contact.

New Zealand Rugby have shrugged off concerns around the scrum and breakdown, feeling they would put in place adequate protection for players.

The game's organisers have promised a faster, safer and more exciting rugby tournament.

"We want this competition to look and feel different. We've had great support from our coaches, players and referees to make Super Rugby Aotearoa faster, safer and more exciting than ever before," said New Zealand Rugby (NZR) head of professional rugby, Chris Lendrum.

Sudden death – golden point

Super Rugby Aotearoa will seek to eliminate drawn matches. If teams are tied after 80 minutes of regular time, the result will be decided by a so-called golden point. The first team to score by any means during ten minutes of extra-time will take the win and earn four log points.

"Draws can often leave everyone feeling a little empty, and after feedback from our coaches and players we have added the golden point rule," Lendrum said. "We've seen the excitement it can generate in other codes, and we think it adds a real edge."

If neither side can score in the ten minutes of sudden-death extra time, they will be awarded two log points each.

Super Rugby Aotearoa retains the bonus points system of the tournament it replaces with any team scoring three tries or more than the opposition being awarded an additional point.

Red card substitute

Players who receive a red card can be replaced with another player 20 minutes after they are sent from the field. 

The sent-off player is barred from returning to the field and will face SANZAAR's existing judicial process. There is no change to the yellow card sanction.

"While players should, and still will be, punished for foul play, red cards can sometimes have too much of an effect on a match," Lendrum said. "There are no winners when a player is red-carded, but paying rugby fans, players and coaches want to see a fair contest. Replacing a player after 20 minutes strikes the right balance."

The breakdown in Super Rugby Aotearoa

NZR national referee manager Bryce Lawrence feels that the existing laws at the breakdown can be applied more strictly to create faster attacking ball and a fairer contest.

"Fans enjoy Super Rugby because it's a fantastic spectacle and our referees like to allow the game to flow. We're confident we'll see a contest that is faster, fairer, safer and easier to understand," Lawrence said.
"We're not changing the laws of the game; we're being stricter about how we referee them."

Areas of focus for referees in Super Rugby Aotearoa

  1. Ball carriers will be allowed only one dynamic movement after being tackled.

  2. Crawling, or any secondary movement other than placing or passing, will be penalised;[*]Tacklers will be expected to roll away immediately in the direction of the side-line. This will be a referee's "number one priority" at the tackle;[*]There will be "extra focus" on the offside line with defenders expected to be "clearly" onside to provide attacking teams more space.

Super Rugby Aotearoa kicks off with the clash between the Highlanders and the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on 13 June.