Sanzaar will launch a review into television match official (TMO) interventions, admitting current rules are “clearly not working” after a string of recent controversies in Super Rugby.
It comes after widespread uproar over a red card to Sunwolves flanker Ed Quirk for a “love tap” on a Queensland Reds opponent on Friday night.
Quirk has been issued a two-week suspension for the incident, which saw him deliver a closed fist to the face of Reds five-eighth Hamish Stewart while the pair were at the bottom of the ruck.
The force with which the ‘hit’ landed, however, was so minimal that both coaches – former All Blacks Brad Thorn and Tony Brown – joined fans and players in expressing genuine fears about the future of the sport.
It appears Sanzaar may have pinned the blame on TMO Damien Mitchelmore, who found the infringement in slow-motion replays and prompted referee Ben O’Keeffe to send Quirk off.
A Sanzaar statement on Monday admitted the last month of international and domestic rugby, and in particular the last two weeks in Super Rugby, had “highlighted some challenges” regarding match officiating processes.
Quirk’s “love tap”, as described by Thorn after the match, may prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back after a series of controversial decisions during that period.
“A major concern for us at present is the practical implementation of the Television Match Official (TMO) protocols,” Sanzaar CEO Andy Marinos said.
“The protocols are clearly not working and a specific review is required in this area.
“Sanzaar believes the appointed referee needs to remain the key decision maker on the field and that TMO interventions only provide context to the match officials’ decision making.
“We need better consistency in the application of the protocols and most would agree that perhaps this is not the case.”
Sanzaar cannot change the laws of the game but Marinos said it was keen to “lead the discussion” and would take recommendations from the review to World Rugby.
A former Queensland player, Quirk was deemed to have committed “physical abuse”, contravening law 9:12, which includes striking with the hand or arm and pleaded guilty.
Reds backrower Caleb Timu, meanwhile, has copped a two-week ban for his shoulder charge into a prone Sunwolves five-eighth Hayden Parker.
Neither Timu nor Quirk will miss any action for their Super Rugby franchise or country and are only barred from playing club rugby for the duration of the suspensions.