Super Rugby Aotearoa announce law tweaks including red card replacements and golden points

Ben Coles
Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor in training last week - AP

Super Rugby Aotearoa, the domestic competition in New Zealand which gets underway next Saturday, will feature some notable law variations, with red-carded players replaced after a period of 20 minutes.

Drawn matches will also be decided by an extra-time golden point, while the competition will allow referees to focus intensively on the breakdown.

Red-carded players will still face the usual disciplinary process, and cannot return to the field, but can now be replaced after 20 minutes.

“While players should, and still will be, punished for foul play, red cards can sometimes have too much of an effect on a match,” said New Zealand Rugby (NZR) Head of Professional Rugby Chris Lendrum.

“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.”

Regarding the golden point, the first team to score - by drop goal, penalty kick, or try - during a 10-minute period of extra time will take the win and earn four competition points.

Teams will still earn losing bonus points if they lose within seven points, while a try bonus point will be awarded if a team outscores their opposition by three of more tries, the system that is currently used in the Top 14 in France.

“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 adds a real edge.”

As for the breakdown, New Zealand Rugby have highlighted the following focal points for referees to focus on.

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

“We want this competition to look and feel different. We’ve had great support from our coaches, players and referees to make Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa faster, safer and more exciting than ever before," Lendrum added.