Wednesday, August 05, 2009




There are going to be two sevens tournaments on this Saturday, August 8: Reno and Golden Gate.

(This is reminiscent of our having had tournaments in Palo Alto and Sacramento on the same weekends this summer.)

Both of these will be single-pitch tournaments. We could use 3-4 refs for each event. Please let us know if you would like a run.


Perhaps a more organized summer schedule would generate more interest. As it was, the Pacific Coast qualifier featured four teams and a grand total of six matches.

Four referees were flown into Flagstaff, Ariz, to work this event. Ouch!

Tempe and Golden Gate qualified to make up the final sixteen men’s teams that will be playing at Rocca Field for the USA Rugby title August 15-16.


Saturday, October 17: Society training meeting, AGM, and election of Board of Directors
At the SFGG clubhouse on Treasure Island.

There will be two vacancies on the five-member Board. Well, there could be more at the discretion of the voters, but we will need at least two new faces among our leadership. If you are interested, or know someone you think would be a valuable addition to the board, now is the time to start talking it up.

Saturday, November 14: Level One Officiating course, at Sacramento State. This will be taught at the same site with a USA coaching course.

Sunday, November 15: Assistant Referee and Touch Judge courses, also at Sac State.

If you are interested in attending a Level One course in the Bay Area in October, please let Rob Hendrickson know of your interest and which of the following dates you would prefer: Oct. 3, 10 or 24.

Stellenbosch, South Africa
Report by Aruna Ranaweera

Week 2.


Fitness testing was conducted for the TIP referees at 8am on the track field. The TIP Strength/conditioning coaches supervised the warm-up and administered the tests. Both 10m and 40m sprints were timed electronically. We also did the "T"-test for agility. We moved to an indoor basketball court to do the multi-stage beep test, but after about 4 levels, the CD started to skip (probably due to vibration from the wooden floor), so the test was postponed to Tuesday.

After lunch, the big event on everyone's agenda was the TriNations match between New Zealand and South Africa. Since the match was being played in Blomfontein, we couldn't watch it live, but thanks to my roommate Horatiu's rugby collaboration with Chester Williams in Romania, the Romanian trainer and I were invited to watch the match at Chester's place in Cape Town. As Chester drove us out of Stellenbosch, he pointed out several rugby matches being played in the black neighborhoods of the town. We arrived at his hill-top house with a stunning view of Cape Town, including Table Mountain and the ocean. Chester showed us his memorabilia from the 1995 World Cup and we were joined by several other guests to watch the Springboks control possession to defeat the All Blacks 28-19. Chester and his wife Maria then treated everyone to a delicious feast that included marinated springbok. After an evening of joviality and reminiscing, they drove us back to our hotel in Stellenbosch. What great hosts!

Most of the TIP participants went out to celebrate our first week in Stellenbosch. The bars and clubs were packed with locals, mostly students, some of whom have started to recognize us from our refereeing during the week (positive reviews, so far!).

SUNDAY July 26

Stellenbosch is South Africa's prime wine region, so appropriately, TIP participants were treated to lunch at Spier, a safari-themed winery that includes a wildlife area featuring live cheetahs and wild African dogs. Dining was buffet style under a large tent, complete with native dancers and couches. Everyone ate too much.

After lunch, most of us were bussed to scenic Cape Town for shopping at the Waterfront area. I seem to have caught a cold, so I went to bed early.

MONDAY July 27

We were treated to a presentation about creating winning teams and attitudes, in which we were shown video of how the Springbok team was motivated and focused for their World Cup campaign in 2007.

The TIP referees participated in a practical session for scrum management in which we took turns refereeing the Western Province Rugby Institute (WPRI) players during their morning practice. Tappe Henning led us through a practical session on running lines recognizing that top-level players are often faster than referees. TIP participants also took an MBTI survey for categorizing personality type.

In the evening, we watched four of the TIP referees officiate Division 5 hostel matches (uncontested scrums).


At 8am, TIP referees ran the multi-stage beep test. Unfortunately, the wooden gym surface turned out to be quite slippery, so we started to lose our footing around level 6. Consequently, the beep test results will only be used to estimate relative aerobic fitness within the TIP group.

Referees then took turns refereeing the WPRI players during maul practice. We were impressed by the bizarre "spider-maul", an innovative variation of the rolling maul that is sure to confuse anyone who hasn't seen it before, especially defenders and referees!

TIP participants then watched and analyzed video from the Lions versus Springboks 1st test. The video clips had been sorted and categorized using "Fairplay" software that dramatically increases the efficiency of post-match video review.

In the evening, four more of the TIP referees, including myself, officiated Division 4 hostel matches (uncontested scrums). We are able to put our new running lines to good effect.


We listened to a presentation on counter-attack and kick defense by former Springbok and current assistant coach of the Blue Bulls, Pieter Roussou. He started his presentation by showing video of the famous Cal vs Stanford football play from 1982! (The message was to not relax and play till the final whistle.)

Tappe then lead the TIP referees through a fascinating presentation on practical refereeing, which included excellent recommendations on the approach one should take to balance the laws and the game. He and Kosie Horn emphasized that a lot of useful material is available on the IRB website (

In the evening, we watched three of the TIP referees from Monday officiate Division 3 hostel matches. The matches were videotaped for assessment purposes.


Tappe led the referees through more discussion about laws and the game using video clips. He emphasized the need for referee accuracy, i.e., the first clear and obvious infringement that has material effect. We were also introduced to several innovations to the sport including "power-play" advantage and also the use of software for time management. The latter is expected to be used globally by #4 officials for substitutions/replacements at high level matches.

In the evening, three of the TIP referees from Tuesday, including myself, officiated Division 2 hostel matches. The matches were videotaped for assessment purposes. There were supposed to be more matches, but Stellenbosch has been hit by the flu, so some teams had to withdraw on short notice due to illness.

FRIDAY July 31

On the last morning of TIP4, we were treated to several stimulating presentations. First, we listened to a presentation by Paul Treu, coach of the World Cup champion South African sevens team. He stressed that his team's success was in large part due to continuity (tenure) between both players and staff. Furthermore, South African sevens players are full-time, i.e., they do not play 15's. They are also monitored on a daily basis for fitness and health.

We were also treated to a fascinating presentation by Jake White, who coached the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2007. He focused on attention to details and showed how, starting from basic plays, he had created an elaborate play-book for the Springboks with an emphasis on defense. His presentation was especially useful for the TIP coaches, since it showed the level of preparation and tactical detail that is needed to win at the highest level of international rugby. I couldn't help but notice how the Springbok playbook was somewhat similar to an American football playbook!

We also listened to an entertaining presentation by Tim Noakes, professor of exercise and sport science at the University of Cape Town. He emphasized the need for recovery and impressed the audience with data on performance and training, using international teams as examples. He also highlighted the mental aspect of training and performance, using Roger Bannister's 4-minute mile as an example. Prof Noakes also stressed that in terms of literature and professionalism, American football was "40 years ahead" of world rugby, so rugby has a lot of room to learn and grow. In fact, it struck me during the past 2 weeks that even though USA is considered a second tier rugby nation, the tier 1 nations look to professional American sports as an example of how to grow and commercialize rugby. Many of the TIP presenters used examples from American football to highlight their points.

All TIP referees had brief 1:1's with Tappe Henning to touch base on future plans and options. We bade farewell to him and agreed to keep in touch.

In the evening, I enjoyed watching the visiting All American rugby team defeat the Stellenbosch Markotters 36-24. Even though the Markotters are essentially a 3rd string varsity select side, beating them is no mean task since Stellenbosch has the top university rugby team in South Africa. I congratulated Matt Sherman and Dave Williams who were at the stadium with the USA team.

TIP organizers and participants were treated to a hearty farewell dinner BBQ in which we thanked everyone for their efforts and company. Steph Nel and the Western Province Rugby Institute (WPRI) were very good hosts.


My 18-hour South African Airlines flight from Johannesburg to Washington DC was poorly timed as it took off during the 2nd TriNations match between New Zealand and South Africa. In case anyone was wondering about the score, the pilot announced that the Springboks had won 31-19, which drew loud applause and cheers from the passengers.

SUNDAY August 2

After a 36-hour trip from Stellenbosch to San Jose, I now have to get back into my regular routine despite jet-lag...

I would like to thank USA Rugby for nominating me for this great opportunity in Stellenbosch. I will be a better referee as a result and I intend to share my new-found insights and knowledge with my USA referee colleagues.




For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris