Have referees in Super Rugby forgotten some of the basic tenets of the game?
After watching Round Six action over the weekend you can't help but wonder.
Take the Blues v Jaguares game at Albany's QBE Stadium.
Jaguares players were constantly in front of the kicker at re-starts and twice when penalty goals were landed by the visiting kicker players were in front of him before he struck the ball.
In one instance a player was two or three metres in front of the kicker. Under the laws of the game that is an infringement and the penalty goal should not be allowed
Given that referees constantly spend time at re-starts, both at halfway and the 22-m line, asking players to get behind the kicker to the point of being pedantic about it, you would think they would at least pay attention at penalty goal attempts.
They only seem to have eyes for the ball, as with much else in the game.
What is going on?
In the same game, and no team is innocent here so the Jaguares are not being picked on, there was deliberate intent of diversionary runners to block players from attempting to line up tackles.
Sadly, there is nothing new in this and it has been going on for years but these are clear and obvious obstructions that are being allowed to continue uninterrupted. The referee on the ground makes an arbitrary decision that a player was not impeded.
Where has one of the great sights of the game, the crash tackler, gone? He has no show of lining up a player from a distance out and delivering a bone-jarring tackle to dislodge the ball and sometimes change a game because someone is deliberately getting in his way to prevent that happening. Why not just call it gridiron, or American football, and be done with it?
The crash tackle, a legitimate tactical option, has gone the same way as the ruck and the four-point dropped goal - down the road, and not always for the better.
Another point. The notion that halfbacks would have to feed the ball straight into the scrum is now recognised for what it always was, a joke, but should that slackness in rulings be allowed to apply to lineout throwing.
In a key moment in the Waratahs v Rebels game in Sydney on Sunday, the Waratahs had a lineout throw which was clearly down their line, yet the referee standing behind the lineout with an unimpeded view did nothing. This was in spite of a roar from the Rebels' side of the lineout, 'Not straight'.
It is often said that the best referees are those who are inconspicuous and who have a feel for the game. Those qualities are not being exhibited consistently enough by referees who are more guilty of being a distraction in the playing of the game.