Several of the world's best referees started when they were at school. Now the Western Province Referees'' Society has been holding courses to encourage schoolchildren to become referees.
Of the 10 referees chosen to referee at the World Cup this year, Jonathan Kaplan, Craig Joubert, Wayne Barnes and Steve Walsh started refereeing when they were at school. The late Ian Rogers, a referee at the 1995 World Cup, also started refereeing at school. Joubert, Rogers and Western Province's Matt Kemp all started refereeing at Maritzburg College. Up-and-coming referee Jason Jaftha started when he was at school, It clearly is a good place to start.
Stuart Dickinson of Australia, one of the most capped Test referees of all time, a man who refereed at three World Cups and has refereed more Super Rugby matches than anybody else, started at school. Earlier this year Shane Young, a Grade 8 pupil at Hoërskool Stellenberg in Cape Town, spent match day with Dickinson. Shane went with Theron to Dickinson's hotel and he then spent the match afternoon with him and received a signed referees jersey. When Shane's father went into his son's bedroom on the Tuesday after Saturday's match there was his son sitting on his bed, wearing his referees' jersey and clutching a signed rugby ball.
Ben Theron, Western Province Referees' manager, started courses for school referees last year. The mid-year holiday was long last year because of the soccer World Cup. Midwinter is not a great time for young people on holiday, and so Theron decided to hold a course for schoolchildren who would like to learn about refereeing.
So far he has run four courses, the latest ending at Jan Kriel School on 27 June. A total of 251 have attended the courses, including eight girls. One of the girls, Andrea Maas from Vredenburg up the West Coast, became the first ballgirl - if that's the right word - at Newlands.
Of the 251 attendees, 62 have become registered referees, competent to be appointed to matches from Under-7 to Under-19B.
The courses last for three days and include an introduction to refereeing, the IRB's Level 1 course, touch-judging, the school laws and referee signals. They do a bleep test and an exam. They are given a law book.
Those who qualify receive a certificate and a bag of goodies and there are follow-up courses. They are entitled to wear a particulaR uniform.
Those giving the courses include Joey Salmans, a national panel referee and a schoolmaster, Wimpie Annandale, Wendy de Kock and Ben Theron.
Theron is now considering the possibility of a refereeing academy for Western Province.
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