Replacements for red cards and a golden-point extra time will be among the innovations on display when New Zealand’s domestic professional rugby competition kicks off next week.
The country’s governing body has announced a series of changes for the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, which involves New Zealand’s five Super Rugby teams and begins on 13 June.
New Zealand, which has suffered minimally from the coronavirus pandemic, will get its national sport and obsession back up and running a week on Saturday, possibly now in front of crowds, currently capped at 100, if the government decides the nation, which has only suffered 21 Covid-19 deaths and just over 1,500 infections, decides to drop to “Alert Level 1” next week.
The country decided against employing World Rugby’s law guidelines produced in response to the health crisis, which included no scrum resets, and pledged to continue its unique competition under the normal rules. However, they have announced some innovations for the ten-week tourney which starts with Otago Highlanders v Waikato Chiefs a week on Saturday and then Auckland Blues v Wellington Hurricanes on the Sunday.
The standout change will be the ability for teams to replace red-carded players 20 minutes after they are sent off with another player.
“While players should, and still will be, punished for foul play, red cards can sometimes have too much of an effect on a match,” New Zealand Rugby’s (NZR) head of professional rugby Chris Lendrum said in a statement.
“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.”
When scores are level after 80 minutes, an extra ten minutes will be played, and the first team to score – by drop goal, penalty kick or try – will be the winner.
The winning team will earn four points and the loser will gain one point, while both teams will receive two points if there is no score in extra time.
Sides can still earn one bonus point by scoring three or more tries more than the opposition, including in extra time.
“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.”
NZR also announced a crackdown on rules at the breakdown – in areas including secondary movements for ball carriers and the roll-away of tacklers – to create a faster and fairer contest.
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