SANZAR has announced its referee squad for the forthcoming Vodacom Super Rugby season with Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand) and Jaco van Heerden (South Africa) promoted and in line for a debut during 2015.
O’Keeffe started refereeing whilst at medical school in Dunedin and quickly progressed through the ranks. He has featured in the Heartland Championship, ITM Cup, as a Super Rugby assistant and at the 2014 Junior World Championships where he earned appointment to the final between England and South Africa.
His father Peter also refereed at provincial level and when he’s not in the middle, O’Keeffe practices as an eye doctor in Wellington, New Zealand.
Pretoria-born Van Heerden, meanwhile, is an Advocate to the High Court of South Africa and joins Super Rugby ranks having made rapid progress applying law on rugby fields throughout his home country.
The 32-year old handled himself with aplomb in his first Absa Currie Cup match during the 2014 season and it was no surprise that he was awarded a semifinal later in the year.
A University of Pretoria Law Graduate, Van Heerden played rugby for his university before later turning his attention to refereeing.
The duo were among the 16 match officials that attended SANZAR’s annual Super Rugby Referee Camp, staged this year at the International College of Management in Manly on Sydney’s northern beaches.
In the midst of the three-day camp, SANZAR Game Manager Lyndon Bray said: “Due to the global nature of our sport and the demands of refereeing, it is incredibly rare to have everyone in the same place at the same time, so it’s vital that we make the most of opportunities like this.
“Our core objectives for 2015 are ‘high intensity, high octane’ and affording players the confidence to play and contest for the ball, which aims to consolidate Super Rugby as the best rugby competition in the world; not only as a product of having the best players, coaches and referees, but also because of the way the game is played.
“After consulting the coaches following the 2014 Super Rugby season, we seek to achieve those goals by way of allowing quick ball at the tackle, faster and more positive scrums, proper set-up and defence of the lineout to maul area and ensuring there is space across the field to allow the teams to play as they want to.”
2015 SUPER RUGBY REFEREE SQUAD:
Stuart Berry (South Africa – 12 Super Rugby, 4 Tests)
Nick Briant (New Zealand – 13 Super Rugby, 2 Tests)
Mike Fraser (New Zealand – 14 Super Rugby, 4 Tests)
Angus Gardner (Australia – 14 Super Rugby, 3 Tests)
Rohan Hoffmann (Australia – 16 Super Rugby – 3 Tests)
Glen Jackson (New Zealand – 30 Super Rugby, 9 Tests)
Jason Jaftha (South Africa – 6 Super Rugby, 1 Test)
Craig Joubert (South Africa – 84 Super Rugby, 54 Tests)
Andrew Lees (Australia – 12 Super Rugby, 2 Tests)
Matt O’Brien (Australia – 2 Super Rugby, 0 Tests)
Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand – 0 Super Rugby, 0 Tests)
Jaco Peyper (South Africa – 48 Super Rugby, 19 Tests)
Chris Pollock (New Zealand – 61 Super Rugby, 19 Tests)
Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa – 4 Super Rugby, 0 Tests)
Jaco van Heerden (South Africa – 0 Super Rugby, 0 Tests)
Steve Walsh (Australia 108 Super Rugby, 60 Tests)
* The Crusaders and Rebels will kick-off the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby competition on February 13 at 08h35 (SA time), while the Emirates Lions will meet the Hurricanes at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg at 19h10 in the first local clash.
This will be followed by derbies between the Cell C Sharks and Toyota Cheetahs at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban and the Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, respectively, on Saturday, February 14.