Jaco van Heerden: An elite referee

Wed, 27 Nov 2013 09:34
Large jaco van heerden

SA Referees recently released their new panels for 2014. There are the established referees and there are newcomers.

SA Referees recently released their new panels for 2014. There are the established referees and there are newcomers.

All but one of the newcomers will be well known to those with an interest in refereeing in South Africa, one perhaps less so - Jaco van Heerden of Pretoria.
Born in Johannesburg, Van Heerden turns 31 next January - young but with 10 years of refereeing behind him, so not new to refereeing. He played rugby at Waterkloof where he went to school and koshuis rugby when he started his law studies at Tukkies but then there was the serious business of an LLB. That made playing rugby difficult but, he says, "I was not willing to let this wonderful game go. I needed to stay involved, and refereeing seemed to be the right thing to do."

So off he went to the Blue Bulls Referees' Society and joined them in 2003. He started from scratch and gradually worked his way up. Schools tournaments played a large part in his progress which was steady, not meteoric. "In 2009 I started off at several school tournaments (Easter Weekends); 2010 at Under-16 Grant Khomo Week; 2011 Under-18 Craven week; 2012 got me to some provincial Under-19 and Under-21 matches; in 2013 I was refereeing at the Community Cup (old Club Champs), Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup First Division." He also refereed a Vodacom Cup quarterfinal and an Under-21 semifinal and in June he was voted Referee of the Month. Then came tidings of great joy.

"Mark [Lawrence] and André [Watson] phoned me, and it’s only afterwards that I realised my jubilation might have blown their speaker phone…the echo’s of my celebrations are still discovering new continents!" The good news they brought was that Van Heerden was on the Elite Panel, one of the top 10 referees in South Africa. The news has been the highlight in Van Heerden's refereeing career and also a spur to his ambitions - to cement his position in the Elite Group and to be recognised by SANZAR and the IRB.

An intelligent man, he is clear about what he wants to achieve as a referee - "to realise and own excellence in every performance by gaining optimum status in the accuracy and precision department".

Of course, he did not make the journey on his own. There was his Society to help him and he singles out individuals. "Johan Zurich (my coach at the Bulls and nowadays also a National Coach) has played a key role in my development and progress at a provincial level. Tappe Henning then came aboard equipping me with the tools-of-the-trade for the 'next level', with Mark Lawrence taking over as my National Coach since 2012."

Role model: "In refereeing it has always been Mark Lawrence, for the reason that he established himself by being a successful referee, a prosperous career and business man, and most importantly an efficacious family man."

There is lots of life beyond rugby for Jaco van Heerden, the referee. He is an advocate of six years standing and a member of the Pretoria  Society of Advocates (Pretoria Bar). He finds refereeing complementary to his legal activities - both concerned with the law in practice.

And then he is married to Tanita, "the most beautiful and best supportive wife".