Marius headlines new Super refs
Marius headlines new Super refsSHARE
SANZAR has announced the squad of Super Rugby referees for 2014. It includes two new members of the panel – Marius van der Westhuizen of South Africa and Matt O'Brien of Australia.
At the same time two referees have dropped off the squad – Jonathan Kaplan, who is retiring, and Jonathon White who is moving to New York to further his career as a cardiac surgeon.
He has secured a two-year scholarship to study a new technique in interventional cardiology at Manhattan's Columbia University.
Van der Westhuizen first made an international name for himself on the IRB's Sevens circuit. He has decided that the 15-man game is more important for him and this year he refereed his first few Currie Cup matches before being appointed to the Currie Cup semifinal between the Sharks and the Free State Cheetahs, which he refereed splendidly.
Pharmacist O'Brien, the son of Paddy, migrated from Invercargill to sunny Queensland and so is an Australian referee, though, like Steve Walsh, he is really a New Zealander.
Like Van der Westhuizen, he has also been schooled in the IRB's Sevens.
There are six referees each from Australia and South Africa, five from New Zealand and one from Argentina
In welcoming the duo to Super Rugby, SANZAR Game Manager Lyndon Bray said: "Each of these men present the strongest potential profiles for refereeing at the top level. Both are so excited to be given the opportunity and we are adamant that we need to recruit these young guys and start developing them into top Super Rugby referees earlier rather than later."
Bray also paid tribute to Kaplan and White.
Of Kaplan he said: “Jonathan Kaplan’s experience is second to none throughout a distinguished career at Test, Super Rugby and Currie Cup levels. He has accomplished more than any other referee in the history of Super Rugby, including being the first whistle-blower to officiate 100 games in our competition."
Of White Bray said: “Jonathon White has had an excellent refereeing career in New Zealand and has represented our team with distinction in recent years. SANZAR wishes Jonathon all the best as he moves to New York to pursue a new opportunity in the medical field.”
While 16 referees are able to celebrate re-selection in the Super Rugby Referee Squad, Bray emphasised that the pressure is on in the short term to realise excellence in performance. "The squad is under no illusion that the honeymoon around developing our 'best team' is over. “We need to see real improvement in performance throughout 2014 and we are challenging our squad to ‘own excellence in refereeing’ as a theme for the coming season.
“There is going to be a strong accent on what it takes to perform at a Super Rugby level. This includes each referee’s ability to create the right outcomes around the tackle ball and contest, the set piece (especially the scrum), space on the field and ensuring a good equitable balance to the contest.”
The squad will assemble for a camp in Sydney during January to build upon the framework that enables the referees to make the game easy to play for the players and easy to watch for the fans.
Bray said: "We have done a lot of work around ‘what does the best game of Super Rugby look like?’ during review workshops across our three Super Rugby territories which will allow us to further refine and develop our best performance model for refereeing in this wonderful competition."
The workshops were held in the three countries and confirmed the major outcome for the 2014 competition would hinge upon greater consistency in application, especially around the tackle ball.
Super Rugby Referee Squad for 2014
Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Angus Gardner (Australia)
Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Jason Jaftha (South Africa)
Craig Joubert (South Africa)
James Leckie (Australia)
Andrew Lees (Australia)
Matt O'Brien (Australia)
Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Steve Walsh (Australia)
Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)