Kaplan chats to Sport24

2013-10-31 10:29

Cape Town - The man who spent 21 years on SARU’s elite refereeing panel tackles YOUR questions. He reveals why he felt it was time to go, the proudest moments of his illustrious career and what his future holds.

June McFarlane asked: You have now had a few days to reflect on the Currie Cup final. Your thoughts?

Jonathan Kaplan: It was the perfect ending for me personally. I was overcome with emotion throughout the week and nothing changed on match day. I’m very grateful that I was given the opportunity to sign off with South Africa’s biggest game domestically. I felt the match went well from a personal perspective and that the best team on the day won. After the game, Schalk Burger presented me with his match jersey as did Sharks captain Keegan Daniel.

Angus John Opperman asked: Why did you decide to call time on your professional refereeing career?

Jonathan Kaplan: The whole ageing process is starting to take shape and I felt that it was the right time to move on. It’s very important that I left with a strong legacy intact.

Liza Lucani asked: Which achievements are you most proud of during your career?

Jonathan Kaplan: I’m most proud of the day that I ran touch when my youngest brother David played for the Natal Sharks against North West in Durban in the mid-90s. It was a proud moment for me and my family. More generally, the fact that I flew the flag for my country for such a long time internationally also makes me very proud. However, all the records that I’ve set don’t belong to me, but rather to the game of rugby.

David Scott Duncan asked: Do you leave the game with any regrets? Are there any moments that you would change if you could?

Jonathan Kaplan: Refereeing a Rugby World Cup final was unfortunately something I wasn’t able to tick off, but I believe that a single game doesn’t define one’s career. In respect of games, there were times I would have liked to change certain situations. For example, a Bledisloe Cup game in 2006 was one in which I felt I was inefficient. That day I thought I let myself down and those that had selected me. As a referee, you have to be honest with yourself and if incorrect decisions are made, they have to be acknowledged. Rugby is complex and in many respects, refereeing is too difficult for one man to do.

Louan Visser asked: What was the most memorable match that you ever officiated?

Jonathan Kaplan: The singular game I’m most proud of is the All Blacks v Wallabies Test in 2000. It was a brilliant game with the two teams at the peak of their powers. Both were playing for the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup titles and the No 1 ranking in world rugby. That game, long remembered for its dramatic twist at the end, really tested me as a professional referee.

Patience asked: You refereed at all levels and must have seen more players ‘up close’ than anyone else. The best player/s you shared the field with?

Jonathan Kaplan: Of all the players I refereed, Christian Cullen was the most dynamic attacking force. In terms of a South African player, Victor Matfield was the pre-eminent lineout forward who almost redefined the role. I also enjoyed the George Gregan/Joost van der Westhuizen/Justin Marshall era.

Jacob Small asked: The funniest chirp you heard on the rugby field?

Jonathan Kaplan: The best was Gregan’s one to Byron Kelleher in the 2003 Rugby World Cup semi-final. He shouted at him, “Four more years mate, four more years.” That was his way of rubbing salt into the wounds.

Simphiwe Dorana asked: What have you made of Glen Jackson’s progress? Would you encourage more former players to take up the whistle?

Jonathan Kaplan: Absolutely. There is a massive void personnel-wise and thus a real opportunity for those who have played at the highest level owing to their game understanding. While Glen can still improve in terms of accuracy of his decisions, he has a great feel for the game and I have no doubt he will grow even further into the role.

Mark Denzil Barnard asked: How do you regard the current state of South African refereeing and which of your now former colleagues do you rate as the country’s best?

Jonathan Kaplan: I believe South African rugby has a rich history of producing top match officials. I’m a big Craig Joubert fan. Physically he is one of the best around and most importantly, he’s proactive in the way in which he translates his thoughts into actions on the field.

Bruce Geldenhuys asked: What happens to a referee who has handled a game poorly?

Jonathan Kaplan: In respect of a poor performance, we’ve seen in South Africa recently that when referees are off-form they are ‘rested.’ There is a remedial process which takes place and it offers a referee an opportunity to come back a few weeks later and deliver a superior performance. While the system is improving, there are massive holes which have not been adequately addressed. The opportunity to transform the sourcing, selection and review process is a project that would greatly interest me.

Jacques Stuart asked: What’s in store for you now that you have retired from refereeing?

Jonathan Kaplan: Ideally, I would really like to stay involved in the game. I’m looking at three different environments: Refereeing, high-performance and media. Refereeing because I’ve been involved in that arena. High-performance owing to the fact that I’ve been at the coalface for longer than anybody else, and thus have expertise which one cannot simply glean from a textbook. And media, because I believe I could help the public better understand the game through a variety of mechanisms.

Steven Riches asked: Will you still be refereeing the odd WP schools match?

Jonathan Kaplan: While I felt the time was right to depart the big stage, I clearly still possess a skill-set which can be put to good use. Therefore, my future goal is to whistle club, school and any other games I’m required to referee. I hope to be around for another thousand games.


James Small

Pat Symcox

Joe van Niekerk

Nick Mallett

Heyneke Meyer

Tiaan Strauss

John Mitchell

David Campese

Dean Furman


  • Jonny Fairplay - 2013-10-31 10:55

    Good questions and well answered. We salute you Kappie.

      Kevin Robarts - 2013-10-31 11:29

      Nice Kappie. You legend

      Sandra Rennie - 2013-10-31 15:39

      Love Jonathan Kaplan to bits ! What a great guy !

  • Honourable Doctyson - 2013-10-31 15:02

    How do you feel about your performance in the 2012 Currie cup final? Kaplan: I handed it to WP on a plate, I had to, I got 5 boxes of KWV out of it.

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