Johannesburg - The world’s most experienced referee, Jonathan Kaplan, has been awarded the Vodacom Super 14 opener between the Bulls and the Cheetahs on February 11.
Kaplan, who refereed the Absa Currie Cup final between the same two teams in October, will again be in the middle for the humdinger to open the local part of the Southern Hemisphere competition.
While the Bulls and Cheetahs will be under a familiar watchful eye, the Sharks will have a totally new referee to deal with when they take on the Chiefs in Durban on February 12.
Young New Zealand referee Keith Brown, who joined his country’s national refereeing panel in 2008, will have his first crack at the Southern Hemisphere competition in the Durban heat, and is highly regarded as one of the rising stars in Kiwi refereeing circles.
But Kaplan, who was criticised by Cheetahs fans for his handling of the Currie Cup final will have the whistle again for the Bloemfontein humdinger.
The other appointments for the first round of the Super 14 see former New Zealander Steve Walsh return to Super 14 action as an Australian refereeing appointment. Walsh will take charge of the Force v Brumbies game in round one.
Australian referee Matt Goddard and New Zealand’s Bryce Lawrence aren’t included in the first round of appointments, but another of South Africa’s top referees, Mark Lawrence has been handed the other local derby when the Stormers travel to Ellis Park to take on the Lions.
Craig Joubert will be the only South African referee on overseas duty in the first round, and has drawn the Reds v Waratahs game for his troubles. Stuart Dickinson will take charge of the Blues v Hurricanes game, while New Zealander Chris Pollock will referee the New Zealand derby between the Crusaders and the Highlanders.
Round one appointments.
Blues v Hurricanes – Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Force v Brumbies – Steve Walsh (Australia)
Cheetahs v Bulls – Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Crusaders v Highlanders – Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Reds v Waratahs – Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Lions v Stormers – Mark Lawrence (South Africa)
Sharks v Chiefs – Keith Brown (New Zealand)