Super Rugby Pacific: NZ Rugby defends referees after player comments

Dylan Coetzee

New Zealand Rugby has thrown its support behind match officials after public comments made by All Blacks Aaron Smith and Ardie Savea.

Red cards have become very common in Super Rugby Pacific this year, with rugby’s governing bodies emphasising player safety, especially when it comes to head knocks.

Player frustration

Smith and Savea both complained about match officials’ decisions after some of their recent games, questioning whether the new directive for referees is taking away from the game itself.

NZ Rugby’s general manager of professional rugby, Chris Lendrum, came to the defence of match officials and stressed that respect for referees is crucial in rugby.

​​”Clearly those comments haven’t met the threshold for Sanzaar to pursue conduct charges against them, but respect for referees is a pretty critical value in our game,” Lendrum told Stuff.

“I know what we want to see is feedback around referees and feedback from referees to teams, and vice versa, being made through the appropriate channels.”

“We all know it’s a very fast-paced and complex game to referee,” Lendrum added. “There will be errors from time to time, and that just shouldn’t be our focus.

“We have had some dialogue with our teams over the last couple of weeks, about trends that we are seeing. And left it at that, really.”

Lendrum clarified that NZ Rugby had discussed the players’ comments after games with their respective teams.

“We have raised particular matters around post-match comments with teams this week,” he said. “Obviously after the last couple of weeks.”

All Black prop Ethan de Groot weighed in on the debate expressing his concerns that the competition has gone soft with red cards.

“Super’s probably getting a wee bit soft on the red cards. If you slow every tackle down they all look like head knocks.,” De Groot said.

“It’s just the way the rules are, you are unlucky if you get found out.”

Lendrum underlined the importance of combating head knocks at all levels of the game.

“Fundamentally, from our perspective, we have to take head contact seriously at all levels,” Lendrum said.

“And that includes the professional level, clearly.”

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