NZs top referee? Lawrence?

2011-11-11 00:00

BRYCE Lawrence will just not go away. The New Zealand referee who played a controversial role in the Springboks’ early exit from the Rugby World Cup and irritated the heck out of the Sharks in the Super Rugby quarter-finals this year, has been given a hefty pat on the back.

Lawrence was yesterday nominated as New Zealand’s Referee of the Year and is one of three officials up for the national award on December 1. With rookie Glen Jackson, who only took up the whistle two years ago when he stopped playing, and New Zealand’s top female referee Nicky Inwood the other nominations, Lawrence is the hot favourite.

And that will rub salt into Springbok wounds. The more cynical South African supporter will argue that Lawrence is simply being rewarded for the part he played in the All Blacks winning their first RWC title since 1987.

Lawrence is one of four New Zealanders included in the Merit Panel of referees for Super Rugby 2012. South Africa has five among the elite (Craig Joubert, Jonathan Kaplan, Mark Lawrence, Marius Jonker and Jaco Peyper), while Australia has only one in former New Zealander Steve Walsh.

Sanzar refereeing boss, New Zealander Lyndon Bray, said the aim was to have the best referees handling most of the games and 80% of the fixtures would be controlled by Merit Panel officials.

Bray said that five new referees had been added to the reserve panel. Two are South Africans Lourens van der Merwe and Stuart Berry. Three referees with strong Pietermaritzburg links, Joubert, Jonker and Berry, are now involved with Super Rugby.

“The reserve panel will operate in a similar way to a rugby team’s reserve bench,” said Bray. “It is inevitable that we need reserve referees performing in the middle because, like players, referees can suffer from injuries and loss of form. In addition it is vital that we continue to develop and grow our talent for the future, which cannot be achieved overnight.”

Four referees from 2011 will not be involved in the 2012 tournament — Stuart Dickinson has retired, while Vinny Munro, Pro Legoete and Nathan Pearce have been dropped from the panel.

Merit Panel: Keith Brown (NZ), Marius Jonker (SA), Craig Joubert (SA), Jonathan Kaplan (SA), Bryce Lawrence (NZ), Mark Lawrence (SA), Jaco Peyper (SA), Chris Pollock (NZ), Steve Walsh (AUS) and Garratt Williamson (NZ).

Reserve Panel: Stuart Berry (SA), Mike Fraser (NZ), Angus Gardner (AUS), Glen Jackson (NZ), Andrew Lees, (AUS) Ian Smith (AUS), Lourens van der Merwe (SA) and Jonathon White (NZ).

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