- In an exclusive interview with Sport24, former Test referee Jonathan Kaplan has singled out two Springboks that for him 'stood out'.
- Kaplan selected lock Victor Matfield and prop Os du Randt as the best Springboks he refereed in his career.
- Of the current generation, Kaplan believes Cheslin Kolbe and Pieter-Steph du Toit stand out.
Former South African Test referee Jonathan Kaplan has singled out lock Victor Matfield and loosehead prop Os du Randt as two of the outstanding Springboks he refereed during his career.
Speaking exclusively to Sport24, Kaplan said that Matfield and Du Randt were the only Springboks he would select in his run-on international team of players he had officiated.
"The guys that stood out for me in terms of their position worldwide were Victor and Os," said Kaplan.
"In my book (2014's Call it like it is: The Jonathan Kaplan Story) I noted their brilliance. I only included two South Africans in the starting team, but I had a number on the bench. I think what's important for me is that I wanted to make it fair," said Kaplan.
Matfield, who won the Rugby World Cup in 2007 represented the Springboks on 129 occasions, making him the most capped South African player of all time.
Du Randt played 80 times for the Springboks and won the Rugby World Cup twice, in 1995 and 2007.
Kaplan also said he admired Jacques Fourie who was a deceptive runner and as lethal a finisher as anyone game.
Kaplan then singled out three current Springboks, Cheslin Kolbe, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen, all World Cup winners in 2019, as players who stood out for him in the current crop.
"So as I said the best of the Springboks were Os and Victor. You know I retired in 2013 and some of the guys hadn't made a name for themselves (at the time), but I did ref Cheslin (Kolbe) and even when he was 19, I remember him being a very strong, lithe young man with impeccable manners. He must have been close to player of the year in 2019.
"When you get someone like Pieter-Steph who has been South African player of the year three times you know that there is something special about him as well.
“I also believe Duane Vermeulen was a crucial component of the World Cup winning side last year,” he said.
Kaplan was the first referee to reach a half-century of Tests, having made his debut in Harare in May 1996.
Upon hanging up his whistle in 2013, he had featured in 70 Tests during his 17-year career - a record at the time - aged 46.
Thirteen of those matches came at the four Rugby World Cups that he attended - 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 - including the semi-final between England and France in 2007.
In all, he refereed 425 first-class matches and brought to the game a style and application that was unique.