Does having two refs work?

2014-03-09 14:00

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The current experiment in the Varsity Cup rugby tournament of having two referees on the field is not proving as successful as it was hoped it would be.

It had been hoped that with two officials in charge, the game would be more accurate with less stoppages and more flow, but it seems it is having the opposite effect.

Three coaches – Pote Human of Tukkies, Michael Horak of the Shimlas and Kevin Musikanth of UCT – say that while the premise that four eyes are better than two works in ­theory, practical experience points the other way.

“We understood the way it would work is that one of the refs would hone in on the scrums and breakdowns, and the other would concentrate on offsides to ensure space in which to attack.

“But it hasn’t been quite that. It’s more that both referees police all the contact points and it becomes a bit constricting. They concentrate on every aspect of a scrum, of which there are many, and that’s a negative,” says Horak, the Cheetah defence coach who has recently announced that he will be joining the Kings.

Human agrees: “If the two refs work well together, it is okay, but mostly we have found there is not much synergy – there is a tendency for one ref, invariably the more senior one, to try to take charge.

“Having more eyes [on the game] is good in theory, but I’m not convinced that it works. It might be okay at Varsity Cup level, but I can’t see it working higher up for the simple reason that you won’t have that many senior referees who have worked in tandem before and you’ll never have good cooperation. You get different personalities and different levels of experience, and thus an element of conflict rather than harmony between the officials.”

Musikanth also agreed: “In reality, it’s not that successful because of small subtleties – both from a human perspective and the game itself.

“You have the question of different personalities – a more senior referee dominating, a junior ref holding back or ­perhaps trying to impose himself. It becomes about the ­referees rather than about the game.

“One outcome is that the game is being overscrutinised. Plus, you have an extra body on the field. It makes it quite awkward.”

Horak said that matches controlled by referees who had previous experience of “twinning” in Stellenbosch were better, but he still felt there were too many technical penalties.

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