Blowing the Whistle

2009-01-23 00:00

With great sadness I heard this past week of the passing of Professor Tinkie Heyns, a legend in the rugby refereeing fraternity, in Cape Town. He was 84. Born Izak de Villiers Heyns, he spent most of his time teaching. He lived in Rondebosch from 1948 till he died. He was devoted to his church (the NG Kerk), Rondebosch Boys’ High and to rugby football and he was a servant of the Western Province Referees’ Society.

Heyns made a substantial contribution to refereeing in South Africa through his attention to matters of law. He was the country’s acknowledged authority on the laws and had many dealings with the International Rugby Board.

He edited the South African Law Book for over 40 years and was involved in the translation of the laws into Afrikaans. Many times he set the examination in the laws of the game for all of South Africa’s referees. Heyns was honoured with life membership of the union – he was on the committee for 42 years – and the society, for which he was granted honorary life vice-presidency, and recently life membership of SA Referees.

I had the privilege of knowing Heyns for most of my life and he was instrumental in shaping my career as a referee. You would not find a more humble man, one who was happy to do much but would expect nothing in return. South African rugby has lost a great man.

Having spoken about the laws of the game, it was brought to my attention this past week that a new law book has been published (in Afrikaans and English) through the offices of Andre Watson at Saru Referees. This book has, for the past 40 years, been a collaborative effort between Heyns, Professor Justus Potgieter, Freek Burger and Dr Louis Wessels. This year the task fell to Theuns Naude, the newly-appointed head coach of SA Referees. The feedback has not been positive and, according to a most reliable source, the law book is littered with errors.

In the Afrikaans version there are apparently some 144 spelling mistakes and even two blatant errors in the law. Saru Referees have even gone as far as to include the new ELVs in the law book. To the best of my knowledge, these laws are still experimental and have not yet been accepted by the IRB. Why are they then accepted in the law book?

It does seem unfortunate that Naude has not harnessed the refereeing knowledge that is freely available around South Africa in presenting such an important document, the bible for new and old referees and the many thousands of those who want to follow the game.

What is curious is that Naude, who never refereed top-class rugby, has landed the job of not only producing this book, but also of being appointed Saru’s head coach of the referees. He has been rushed up the promotion ladder and now fills the vacancy left by the IRB-bound Tappe Henning.

Naude was not the only applicant — he was appointed ahead of two former Test officials who were also on the shortlist of four.

What is of concern is that our young referees are going to be coached by a person who has never felt the pressure of handling a Currie Cup game, let alone a Test match in front of 60 000 spectators.

The passing of Tinkie Heyns has highlighted the problems in the office of Saru Referees under Andre Watson. Heyns would surely not have allowed an error-ridden document to be handed out to budding referees — but this is only one of the many problems which keep surfacing at that office.

The circus goes on.

•Your views to

•Michael Katzenellenbogen is a former Test and Super referee and lives in Pietermaritzburg.

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