Marius Jonker, one of the top referees in the world in his time, has decided that he is no longer available for international refereeing.
This brings the curtain down on a great career at Test and Super Rugby levels, but he will continue to referee domestic rugby in South Africa. It ends a bitter-sweet year of refereeing for the 44-year-old from Richards Bay.
It has been a bitter-sweet year. First he was dropped from the IRB Merit panel of referees - along with several others at a time of wholesale changes with the reduction in the size of the panel - Wayne Barnes, who has come back, Christophe Berdos, Keith Brown, Stuart Dickinson, Peter Fitzgibbon, Jonathan Kaplan, Bryce Lawrence, Mark Lawrence, Alan Lewis, Dave Pearson and Andrew Small while Jaco Peyper came onto the panel. But after being dropped from the panel Jonker went on to referee four Tests and a Currie Cup semifinal and was in close contention for an appointment to the Currie Cup Final. The four Tests he refereed were far from home - Fiji vs Tonga, Tonga vs Samoa, Canada vs USA and Canada vs Italy.
Jonker's decision follows discussions earlier this year with Paddy O'Brien when O'Brien was still managing referees for the IRB, and then recently with André Watson, South Africa's manager of referees.
On his decision, Jonker said: “I have had a highly enjoyable international career, refereeing at Test and Vodacom Super Rugby level but the time has come to move on.
“I still love refereeing and will continue to take charge at Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup level – as well as in SARU’s other competitions.”
Jonker said that, of course, there were disappointments but when he missed out on an appointment he was keen on "something else always came along".
Family considerations played a big part in his decision as travel means that the modern referee is often far from home. His son is an outstanding sporting prospect with provincial representation in rugby, swimming and cricket and has had offers from several places for his high schooling.
Jonker, a former flyhalf in top club rugby in KwaZulu Natal, made his refereeing debut at first class level in 2003 and refereed his first Test in 2005. In 2007 he went to the Rugby World Cup in France. In all he refereed 24 Tests.
Watson said after the announcement: “Marius has been one of the world’s top referees for a number of years. Along with Jonathan Kaplan, Mark Lawrence and Craig Joubert he was part of a crop of outstanding South African officials who raised the bar for officiating everywhere.
“He has served SARU, SANZAR and IRB for a long period with distinction. I believe he did not receive the acknowledgement and credit he deserved. But what’s important is that his experience is being retained by SARU and can be passed on to the young guns in the next season or two.”
Marius said that come 2013 he will be fit as a fiddle and ready for the best rugby competition in the world - the Currie Cup.
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