Wednesday, July 29, 2009




The response has been gratifying. We have twenty Pelicans and three of our neighbor referees from the Southern California RRS signed up to cover the twin tournaments on Treasure Island in two weeks. This will allow us to double-cover both events at the same time, men and women – something not a lot of domestic referee societies could pull off.

We hope that the teams, the players and the competitions will be well-served by our efforts.

Thanks to Bill Caulfield of the SCRRS for putting out the word and securing us some help.


Palo Alto wrapped up early for the summer, never having finished in July before.

Formalizing the national championship in Sevens, expanding it to sixteen teams, and then introducing ever-more drawn out qualification procedures in parts of the country have had the paradoxical effect of killing August sevens tournaments.

Whereas not many years ago teams were playing solely for fun and knew it, these days those same types of teams stop playing once their regional seeds have been selected for the simple reason that the June torrent of tournaments which used to run all summer trickles to a halt after July.

Fight back against tide! Attend the Tri-Tip Sevens in San Luis Obispo on September 12.

Stellenbosch, South Africa
Report by Aruna Ranaweera

Week 1

MONDAY July 20:

After a 27-hour trip from SFO, which included a 15+ hour non-stop flight from JFK to Johannesburg, I was met at the Cape Town airport by some Western Province Rugby players who shuttled me to the Stellenbosch hotel, a quaint boutique hotel in the middle of Stellenbosch. All TIP participants are staying at this hotel, where the IRB is providing meals and board. My roommate is one of the top referees in Romania, Horatiu Barguanas.

TUESDAY July 21:

Winter in this part of South Africa is similar to winter in the bay area: mild and occasionally wet. Daily TIP activities go from 8am-6pm or so and are mostly at scenic Stellenbosch University, about 15 minutes walk from the hotel. According to Wikipedia, Stellenbosch is the only university in South Africa that still uses Afrikaans as the primary language of instruction.

There are a total of nine referees at this year's TIP: one each from Namibia, Romania, Portugal, USA, Argentina, Canada, Uruguay, Spain, and Georgia. Seven of the referees are in the age range 23-29 and I am the second oldest. (The Portuguese referee is 37). About half of the referees have already had IRB appointments. This is the fourth time the TIP has been held and is considered an opportunity for the IRB to develop referee talent in Tier 1 and Tier 2 rugby nations that are not represented on the IRB referee panel. In addition to the nine referees, there are also nine coaches and four strength/conditioning trainers here for that portion of the TIP.

TIP participants were welcomed by Steph Nel, the energetic Program Director of the Western Province Rugby Institute (WPRI). After an interactive workshop with Jacques Hanekom (WPRI CEO) to define the term "High Performance", participants were introduced to TIP Referee instructors Tappe Henning (former international referee and current member of the IRB Referee selection panel) and Kosie Horn (South Africa Referee Manager).

Andre Watson then addressed us and remarked that South African rugby is in dire need of more referees as there are approx 9000 matches played each weekend, but only 2000 referees.

Tappe Henning then lead the referees through an exercise to define and select the referee management team and referee panel for RWC 2011. There was also a discussion about finding funds for IRB referee development.

The referees were also assigned to referee matches in Stellenbosch U's hostel (intramural) league: Monday is Division 5, Tuesday is Division 4, and so forth, with Division 1 on Friday. I was assigned to referee a Division 4 match on Tuesday and enjoyed the experience even though scrums were uncontested and play was somewhat unstructured. Rucking and tackling was physical to say the least! Hostel league matches consist of 25-minute halves and are played on a large field with several "ground rules" that make things interesting. Although Tappe and Kosie (and Andre Watson) watched the matches casually to observe our referee styles, there are to be no assessments until next week. Instead, informal feedback will be provided by our TIP referee peers.

Since the hotel is located in the middle of Stellenbosch, TIP participants found several entertaining bars and clubs within walking distance. Seven Rand to the US dollar means beer is cheap.


Basil Bay gave us a speech exploring the philosophical aspects of rugby as a sport and lifestyle, while John Dobson (founder of rugby365) presented on managing the media.

Jonathan Kaplan then spoke to us about his life as a top international referee: It was great to hear his candid opinions and we enjoyed the opportunity to ask him questions about his craft. I asked him what the biggest area of opportunity was within international refereeing and he said it was the need to have referees from 2nd tier nations at the IRB highest level. I also asked him how he foresees refereeing evolving in the next 10 years to which he predicted the emergence of younger, more athletic referees and also the use of two referees on the field (something Stellenbosch U already does in some of its matches).

Doctor G. Pool then gave us a presentation on the evolution of the game of rugby and how it has borrowed concepts from other sports, including rugby league and American football.

During lunch, I realized that my classmate, the Romanian High Performance manager (a good-natured New Zealander named "Steve") is in fact Steve McDowell, the 1987 World-cup winning All-Black prop. How cool is that? I used to watch his All Black team dominate world rugby in the late 1980's.

We also took a rather difficult law exam that consisted of video clips. This is the future of rugby law exams, I am told.

In the evening, we watched three more TIP referees officiate Division 3 hostel matches.


Tappe Henning led a discussion of referee pathways to the top level (IRB panel). He emphasized that there are now several opportunities for Tier 2 nation referees and that the pathway is more open now than it has ever been.

We also discussed several core skills for referees including style and technical aspects.

In the evening, we watched the remaining two TIP referees officiate Division 2 hostel matches.

FRIDAY July 24:

Tappe Henning continued the discussion of rugby laws using video clips and examples/anecdotes. Some of the positioning advice and recommendations are different from what I have heard in the US, so I look forward to following up once I return home.

In the evening, all TIP participants traveled to Newlands in Cape Town to watch the Vodocom Cup (Currie Cup) match between Western Province and the Orange Free State Cheetahs. The stadium is impressive and the match was fierce with WP winning 19-13. At the stadium, my Romanian roommate Horatiu introduced me to his friend Chester Williams from the 1995 World Cup winning Springbok team. The "black pearl"! Very cool.

More news to come next week!


Paul Simko sends this along, his latest labor of love after a three-year gestation:

Have a look!


Sam Reagle and Teresa checked in, from their open-ended RV escapade. They were last reliably located in Michigan, having traversed the purple mountains majesty and the fruited plain, taking the opportunity to white-water raft and spelunk along the way.

Reports have them heading north, eh?

Award Winner
Scott Wood presents David Williamson with the Bryan Porter Award for excellence in furthering referee development in Northern California, to the applause of Preston Gordon and his friend Catherine, Dixon Smith, Tom Zanarini and Paul Bretz’ legs.

The Big Bird and Pelicus Pentapteryx lend credence to the ceremony.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris