Earlier this month a special IRB dispensation was made which allows the powers of the television match official (TMO) to be extended significantly. It is currently being trialled in South Africas Currie Cup competition, which kicked off on Friday, and saw the first games result being dramatically affected by the new ruling.
The experimental ruling gives the TMO more power than what he used to have, which was basically confined to making a decision regarding the scoring of a try.
Now, he may be referred to for an incident that occurred in a previous phase of play, anywhere on the field, as opposed to the in goal area only as in the past.
This means that not only can the referee get the TMO to check if the try was awarded fairly; it also means that at any point in the game, he can check if there has been a forward pass, a knock-on, obstruction or if any other offences transpired.
In the instance of a suspicion of foul play, he can refer to the man upstairs who will then ask the producer to rewind back to the previous phase of play and give his recommendation.
On the weekends game we saw this in action for the first time, as the Sharks and Western province were tied at 25-25 with less than three minutes remaining. The referee got a flag from the touch judge, who suspected unlawful use of the boot. The suggestion was then made to use the television match official to check if this was in fact correct.
After reviewing the footage, the TMOs findings were that there was in fact trampling close to a players face, which resulted in a penalty to the Sharks. The vital decision meant that scrum half Rory Kockott had the pressure kick to win the game, which he duly slotted, which meant the Sharks came out winners.
This system has also been used in France for foul play, and to re-iterate, is purely on a trial basis in the Currie Cup only at this stage. It has its merits, with the goal in mind being that we all want the correct decision to be made, and dirty play needs to be stamped out of the game.
Will it slow the game down drastically though, with TMOs taking ages over decisions, thus killing the game for the spectator? Time will tell.
The video quality is a little choppy on this one. Apologies in advance.