Henning goes north

Thu, 12 Sep 2013 11:53
Large tappe henning2 Large tappe henning

Tappe Henning, who has done so much for refereeing, is heading to Edinburgh  to take over Scottish refereeing.

Tappe Henning, who has done so much for refereeing, is heading to Edinburgh  to take over Scottish refereeing.

On Monday, Henning signed a three-year contract with the Scottish Rugby Union to become that country's referee commissioner. There is an option of renewal of the contract for a further two years.

This means that Henning ends his employ with the SA Referees on 30 September and heads for Edinburgh. His wife will follow in January though some of the children will stay behind for their education's sake.

The post, called referee commissioner, is comprehensive. It includes training, education and upskilling of Scottish referees and working out a direction for them to take. He will be in charge of the high performance referees. Apart from that he will also work with the international referees in an effort to reduce the number of penalties they concede, a function he performed with South Africa's national teams.

Henning has been much involved in this sort of involvement in South Africa where he has been an outstanding mentor/coach of referees, an acknowledged expert on the Laws of the Game and a lively presenter of refereeing information. A great sense of humour has been a great help.

He has been an International Rugby selector and advisor of referees. When Paddy O'Brien ran the IRB's referees, he described Henning as the 'jewel in my crown'.

There was a time when the IRB's referee selectors were a large body - David Pickering (Wales) who was the chairman, Tappe Henning (South Africa), Kevin Bowring (England), Bob Francis (New Zealand), Stephen Hilditch (Ireland) and Michel Lamoulie (France). The IRB Referee Manager was Paddy O'Brien.  The selection committee was then streamlined to four - Henning and Lyndon Bray of SANZAR and Donal Courtney and Clayton Thomas of the Six Nations. The chairman was John Jeffrey, the former Scottish international. His experience of Henning may well have led to his being asked to apply for the new post.

At the last World Cup there was, for the first time, no Scottish match official - not a referee, not and assistant referee and not a TMO, all aspects of refereeing that Henning knows from top experience.

William Taljaard Stopforth Henning, who inherited his nickname from his grandfather via his father, was born on 6 June 1961 in Nigel, a gold-mining town in south-eastern Gauteng. He was educated at John Vorster High School, the Police College in Pretoria and Pretoria Technikon. He was part of fitness instruction at the Police College.

After playing for Northern Transvaal (Blue Bulls) Under-20 he started refereeing, joining the Referees' Society in 1987. In 1994 he was promoted to the provincial panel. The year 1995 was great year for  him. He became the youngest referee to referee the Currie Cup final at the age of 34, a record broken by Craig Joubert in 2010. The 1995 Final was between Natal and Western Province at Kings Park. He also refereed his first Test match - Scotland vs Western Samoa at Murrayfield. In 1997 Henning refereed the Super Rugby final between Auckland Blues and the Brumbies at Eden Park. He was South Africa's 48th Test referee. In all he refereed 14 Tests till he retired from international refereeing in 2004. Amongst his top matches were Scotland vs Australia at Murrayfield, England vs France, Australia vs New Zealand twice, New Zealand vs Ireland twice and Wales vs New Zealand.

Henning was at the 1999 Rugby World Cup as an assistant referee in 1999 and by some bizarre act of injustice was omitted from the 2003 World Cup, he has had intimate experience of World Cups subsequently.

In his autobiography André Watson tells a delightful Henning story. He stayed on in Cardiff at his own expense for the World Cup Final in 1999 when Watson was refereeing the Final. He had a ticket for the Final and went to the ground where he bumped into a father who was trying to get his son into Millennium Stadium to see the final. Tappe took his ticket out and gave it to the boy and then went back to the hotel to watch the match on television.

South Africa's loss is certainly a gain for Scotland.