Marius van der Westhuizen, up-and-coming South African referee whose career was given a blow when he was dropped from World Rugby’s match official elite panel at the end of October last year, is on the 15-man panel for the Super Rugby series that starts on 15 February.
The (unconfirmed) reason given in the media for Van der Westhuizen’s omission from the elite panel suggested that his was not up to the required level ‒ a strange assumption in the case of a man who undergoes an official fitness test by an expert three or four times a year.
However, he is back on the Super Rugby panel and is one of the five South African referees to be appointed. The others are AJ Jacobs, Jaco Peyper, Egon Seconds and Rasta Rasivhenge.
New Zealand have six referees on the Super Rugby panel, with three from Australia and one from Argentina completing the list.
Peyper, who has been refereeing Super Rugby since 2009, is the most experienced of the referees. Six of the panel – Berry, Gardener, Jackson, O’Keeffe, Peyper and Williams – are among the 14 referees who will be refereeing Six Nations matches in the next two months.
The only newcomer to the panel is former Melbourne Rebels and also Australian sevens player Damon Murphy. South Africa’s AJ Jacobs was on last year’s panel but did not referee a match.
♦ The panel were at a week’s camp at a resort in Christchurch for the past week. The conference leader was SANZAAR’s referee manager, Lyndon Bray, a Test referee in his day. With him were the high performance referees managers Mitch Chapman of Australia, Paul Honiss of New Zealand and Mark Lawrence of South Africa.
Honiss and Lawrence are also former Test and Super Rugby referees.
Much time at the camp was spent on developing team work amongst referees. Super Rugby plans to have teams of three working together during most of Super Rugby, giving them a better chance to gel as a team.
A day was spent with Crusaders to develop teamwork, learning from Super Rugby’s most successful franchise their high performance culture and the importance of a communication structure under pressure.
The All Black coaches, Steve Hansen and Ian Foster, also spoke to the referees about top level preparation and performance review. New Zealander Jamie Tout dealt with fitness and Warren Kennaugh addressed the mental/psychological side of refereeing at a high level.
Law application was not neglected. The emphasis was on consistency at scrum, tackle and phase play.
The 15 referees are ‒
Argentina: Federico Anselmi
Australia: Nic Berry, Angus Gardner, Damon Murphy
New Zealand: Nick Briant, Mike Fraser, Glen Jackson, Ben O’Keeffe, Brendon Pickerill, Paul Williams
South Africa: AJ Jacobs, Jaco Peyper, Egon Seconds, Rasta Rasivhenge, Marius van der Westhuizen.