Pulling the rabbit out of the hat is usually something magicians do. It comes as a big surprise. Referees are not magicians, so we don't want to see them pulling any rabbits out of the hat.
By this The Rugby Ref means the Red or Yellow card that comes out of nowhere (like a rabbit from a hat).
The Rugby Ref is really a very nice person and likes to be pleasant and polite to the players. The Rugby Ref has an escalation procedure for dealing with those who transgress on the rugby pitch.
Assuming the transgression has no material effect on play.
First of all The Rugby Ref will ask you nicely not to do it.
"Blue 7, you're straying offside at the rucks, please stay behind the backfoot."
"Red 6, stay on your feet at the breakdowns please."
If this advice is not followed, The Rugby Ref will tell you not to do it."Blue 7, backfoot now."
"Red 6, roll away now."
After the ask and the tell, or if the offence has an affect on play, comes the penalise.
Peep! "Penalty, Blue 7 offside."
Peep! "Penalty, Red 6 not rolling away."
If players fail to take note at this point The Rugby Ref is going to start thinking about what other tools he has in his management toolbox, because The Rugby Ref is not going to keep giving penalties all match and may have to escalate to a "Yellow Card" for repeat offending.
By the time a team receives a "Yellow Card" The Rugby Ref would not expect it to come as a surprise, he would not expect it to appear like the rabbit out of the hat.
Of course sometimes the "Yellow Card", or even the "Red Card", will come without any warning, but it should still not come as a surprise. It is going to be in a situation where The Rugby Ref would hope everyone, including the players, would expect it. For instance:
- The stiff arm tackle.
- Tackling the jumper in the air.
- Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving him into the ground.
- Intentional offending - sometimes called deliberate and cynical play.
So next time your referee produces a card out of his pocket, have a think about what has already happened, have a think about any advice or warnings the referee has given out. The Rugby Ref hopes you will come to realise that it's not appearing like a rabbit out of a hat; instead it's appearing as the expected finale to the act?