Cape Town - Two of South Africa’s brightest refereeing prospects, Rasta Rasivhenge and Quinton Immelman, have been added to the match official panel for the forthcoming Super Rugby season, where a number of law variations will be in play.
SANZAAR - officially the new name of the organisation to reflect the inclusion of Argentina in the existing joint-venture between South Africa, New Zealand and Australia - on Tuesday announced that nine of the 22 referees on the panel will get their first taste of Super Rugby this season.
Rasivhenge and Immelman will join their compatriots Craig Joubert, Jaco Peyper, Stuart Berry, Marius van der Westhuizen and Jaco van Heerden on the Super Rugby panel.
“The inclusion of Rasta and Quinton on the Super Rugby panel is just reward for the hard work they have been putting in over the last few years and I can’t wait to see them make their debut in the best provincial competition in the world,” said Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby’s General Manager: Rugby.
“We’ve always produced referees of the highest calibre and the Super Rugby panel is further proof of that. Craig and Jaco are two of the most experienced referees in the world and will raise the bar even further this year, while Stuart, Marius and Jaco are three of the best up-and-coming match officials in the game.
“The work done by our very own referees department has not gone unnoticed and it’s great to know South Africa is still at the fore when it comes to producing the best match officials for world rugby.”
SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos said the Super Rugby referees, under the guidance of Game Manager Lyndon Bray, gathered in Sydney recently for their annual training camp while the Executive Committee had approved a series of law variations as the countdown continues to kick-off on Friday, February 26.
The group met at the International College of Management in Manly for a five-day camp that included rigorous physical training, refinement of mental skills and a comprehensive briefing around a number of variations that are set to be introduced for the 2016 season.
“The 2016 referee squad contains 22 members, of which nine are in line to make their first appearance at this level, including Federico Anselmi and Shuhei Kubo of Argentina and Japan respectively,” said Marinos, who attended a full day session with the referees along with SANZAAR’s Head of Operations, Brendan Morris.
“It was important for me to meet with the men who play a big role in the product that Super Rugby is and to share with them the business and rugby imperatives that we have.”
Marinos also confirmed that the four-try bonus point will be replaced by a bonus point to the winning team provided they score at least three tries more than their opponents, while penalty options after time has expired will now include playing a lineout. The awarding of a bonus point to a team losing by seven points or less remains unchanged.
“These law amendments, while subtle in nature, will help Super Rugby’s continuing evolution as the best provincial competition in the world,” Marinos added.
“The change to the bonus point, which has been widely discussed throughout the past week as one potential innovation, has now been formally approved by the Exco for the 2016 season.
“By implementing this change, we expect to see more attacking and competitive rugby as teams will be asked to keep their foot down for the full 80 in order to claim the try-scoring bonus point, which we have seen used to great effect in France over the past few years.
“In addition to this, permitting teams to opt for a lineout after time has expired serves to disincentive opponents from infringing and aims to reward sides that are particularly strong set-piece exponents which, when coupled with the previously mentioned changes, encourages more attacking and competitive rugby.”
These law variations and game innovations were tabled in October 2015 for SANZAAR’s national unions to consult with and brief their franchises.
“It has not gone unnoticed the number of key stakeholders have felt the need to publicly criticise SANZAAR for initiatives that were floated months ago and heavily canvassed throughout each national union,” Marinos added.
“We would never impose such fundamental changes to Super Rugby without proper consultation with stakeholders but will nevertheless continue to engage our member unions and franchises and work with all teams to continue striving for Super Rugby's ongoing improvement.
“It was also considered whether to adopt pre-2013 television match official protocol whereby the TMO could only rule on try scoring, in-goal and foul play, however following consultation with World Rugby, where we were informed they would be conducting a TMO review this year, we have decided to retain status quo for 2016 and will participate fully with the review in an effort to ensure that this area of the game gets the focus and attention it deserves.”
Also emanating from the recent Exco meeting was the decision to refer to the organisation as SANZAAR (previously SANZAR), to formally recognise Argentina’s participation in the joint venture.
“Their top-four finish at the Rugby World Cup and now full participation in Super Rugby adds further strength and prestige to the existing competition structures. As the top four international teams from RWC 2015 look to further grow and establish Southern Hemisphere as a dominant force in world rugby, we are all very excited to see what lies in store in the coming year,” Marinos concluded.
The next chapter of the toughest and most exciting provincial rugby competition on earth begins with a double-header on Friday, February 26 as the Highlanders begin their title defence against the Blues in Auckland before the Brumbies host the Hurricanes to cap an enormous opening night involving three of last year's four semi-finalists.
On the same day, the Jaguares get their maiden Super Rugby campaign underway in Bloemfontein against the Cheetahs (19:05).
Fans don’t have long to wait before the action continues with the Lions travelling to Tokyo for a historic clash at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium on Saturday, February 27 at 06:15 (SA time), the first Super Rugby match to be played in Japan.
Later that day, the Southern Kings re-enter the competition with a clash against the Sharks at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (15:00), while the final match of the opening round will be a mouth-watering north/south derby between the Stormers and the Bulls at Newlands in Cape Town (17:05).
2016 Super Rugby referees:
Federico Anselmi (Argentina - 0 Super Rugby, 7 Tests)*
Nic Berry (Australia - 0 Super Rugby, 0 Tests)*
Stuart Berry (South Africa - 21 Super Rugby, 5 Tests)
Nick Briant (New Zealand - 25 Super Rugby, 2 Tests)
Mike Fraser (New Zealand - 23 Super Rugby, 4 Tests)
Angus Gardner (Australia - 26 Super Rugby, 5 Tests)
Rohan Hoffmann (Australia - 26 Super Rugby, 3 Tests)
William Houston (Australia - 0 Super Rugby, 0 Tests)*
Quinton Immelman (South Africa - 0 Super Rugby, 0 Tests)*
Glen Jackson (New Zealand - 41 Super Rugby, 16 Tests)
Craig Joubert (South Africa - 93 Super Rugby, 64 Tests)
Shuhei Kubo (Japan - 0 Super Rugby, 6 Tests)*
Andrew Lees (Australia - 22 Super Rugby, 2 Tests)
Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand - 0 Super Rugby, 0 Tests)*
Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand - 5 Super Rugby, 0 Tests)
Jaco Peyper (South Africa - 59 Super Rugby, 29 Tests)
Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand - 0 Super Rugby, 0 Tests)*
Chris Pollock (New Zealand - 70 Super Rugby, 22 Tests)
Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa - 0 Super Rugby, 0 Tests)*
Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa - 9 Super Rugby, 1 Test)
Jaco van Heerden (South Africa - 6 Super Rugby, 0 Tests)
Paul Williams (New Zealand - 0 Super Rugby, 0 Tests)*
* Denotes a new squad member in 2016