Johannesburg - Some of the world's top rugby referees are set to whistle the first round of this year's Super 14 competition kicking off this Friday.
Announcing the match officials appointments for weeks one to five of the competition, Sanzar referees manager, Lyndon Bray, said having a strong start was important.
"We want our senior referees leading from the front in week one, particularly with the new Sanzar focus on four priority areas designed to free up the ball, give clarity to rulings at the tackle area and scrum time, and penalise players advancing from off-side positions during kicking phases.
"I'm heartened by the results of applying these priority areas during pre-season games. The signs are good for the start of season," Bray said.
The experienced referees include Australia's Stuart Dickinson who whistles the first match for 2010 with the Blues against the Hurricanes in Auckland, and former New Zealand referee, now in Australia, Steve Walsh, who returns to international refereeing in the Force v Brumbies game in Perth.
South African Jonathan Kaplan will referee last year's Super 14 champions, the Bulls, who face the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Fellow South Africans Craig Joubert, Jaco Peyper and New Zealanders Chris Pollock and Keith Brown will all have first round duties with the whistle.