Double refs for Varsity Cup
The Varsity Cup will lend itself to further refereeing experimentation, with the 2014 competition set to employ two referees in every fixture.
Having trialled the white card (time-out) system in the inaugural tournament back in 2008, as well as allowing referees to make their own Television Match Official decisions (with in-goal television screens), the Varsity Cup will now lend itself to further refereeing experimentation.
Of course, the Varsity Cup was the first rugby competition in South Africa to have 23-man playing squads, with not one uncontested scrum taking place in any Varsity Rugby tournament since 23-man squads were first trialled four years ago.
SA Rugby and the International Rugby Board have both given this trial the thumbs-up and will monitor the outcome of this latest experimentation in the 2014 Varsity Cup.
The two on-field referees will work together to ensure a smoother rugby product for all. The referees will operate in tandem during the match, with both able to roam the field as they please in order to police the off-side line, the breakdown, forward passes, etc.
"We're very excited about the opportunity to trial the two-referees' system next year, something which has been used in the Stellenbosch Koshuis League for some time now," commented Varsity Cup Managing Director Duitser Bosman.
"Both SARU and the IRB have been very supportive and we're all excited to see if two referees can help make for a
better product for everyone - the players, coaches and, of course, our valued spectators."
André Watson, the General Manager of SARU's Referees department, said: "We've always had a good relationship with the Varsity Cup - we allow them to trial a few things here and there and they're always happy to accommodate requests from us.
"It might be weird initially seeing two referees on the field, but I would like spectators to be patient. We've obviously monitored it (two referees) in the Maties Koshuis Leagues, but this is a great opportunity to test it at a higher level and we're very excited to see if allows for more accuracy, less stoppages and, thereby, more flow (in the game)."
Bosman, meanwhile, also used this opportunity to encourage Varsity Cup followers to respect the men in the middle, adding: "We would like our supporters and followers of Varsity Rugby to respect referees. It normally takes 31 people to play one game of rugby... or 32 in the 2014 Varsity Cup! Remember, without a referee you cannot even start the match."
The 2014 Varsity Cup kicks-off on Monday, February 3 (2014), with the Varsity Shield competition getting underway a week earlier on January 27.