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Law discussion: Name calling

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On Sunday, the Blue Bulls played Western Province at Loftus Versfeld and the referee referred to the teams by their names.

By Paul Dobson, Moonsport

Some years ago this would have been normal but now colours seem the norm, and that match could have been Blue against Blue 'n White or just White. Hearing the referee say "Province ball" was so refreshing to old ears.

There was a time when the referees said nothing - NOTHING. They had a whistle in their left hand. If they blew it they then used their right arm/hand to give their decision - scrum, penalty, try, or whatever. No words were necessary except in dealing with foul play, and then few words were necessary - never more than five.

The belief was "Less was More" and none at all best of all.

But then rugby invented management and referees became talkative masters of ceremonies. It was all about preventative refereeing and ignoring what is not relevant or material. They even found a word for it - materiality, as in "Play on. No materiality."

The value of all this is debatable as in many ways refereeing became sloppier and as a result, stoppages increased. Less became more!

But we are rambling. Let's get back to name calling.

How colours were preferable to names is uncertain. In Super Rugby, the Bulls played the Blues in Pretoria. The Blues played in white and the referee referred to them as Whites, though they know themselves as Blues. The Bulls played in Blue and so were called Blue, which may well have confused the real Blues.

The names - Bulls and Blues - were not longer or clumsier than Blue and White.

In some cases, it's hard to decide on the colour to call the teams because of the multicoloured outfits and the colour code decided on must presumably be relayed to the team, though calling them the Kings would have worked perfectly and without confusion.

In South Africa Griqualand West, the second oldest union in the country players in peacock blue and white stripes - as they have done for more than a hundred years. Now, it seems, their peacock blue has changed colour and they are called Green. Griquas is easy to say.

It's hard to find a reason to use colour-naming instead of calling a team by the name it gave itself.

How do you address the players in a group or as individuals, if you are steaming ahead with "management"?

You hear them referred to as boys, guys, lads or laddies, which is even more patronising, and sometimes gentlemen. The advantage of "gentlemen" is that it may encourage more gentlemanly behaviour.

More and more players' names are being used. Captain has given was to Kieran, Eben, Michael, Agustín and so on. Players became numbers and now, more and more, names - Ross, Elton and Beauden or, better still, Beaudie.

 Using captains' names is not much of a problem. After all, there are only two of them on the field and it may be a way of increasing the possibility of co-operation - the "We're in this together" idea. 

 Using names for players has dangers. If a referee is going to use it for players, he needs to be able to go it uniformly and that may well mean that he needs to have the names of up to 46 players on the tip of his tongue. It's not good calling one Joe and the other No.3. That suggests bias - just as it is important for referees to talk equally and in the same tone to both sides when he calls the front rows out to give them another )ineffective?) lecture on how to play in the front row legally.

 Now all of this is not the discussion of laws but it is on the periphery, an adjunct to applying the laws. And it's work thinking about.

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