SA Rugby Referees Manager, Banks Yantolo, has been capitalising on having all of the referees at home, where online conferences, and law analysis and discussions have been covered extensively since lockdown began.
“There has been no rest since lockdown started,” said Yantolo.
"This is a great opportunity for the referees because it is rare to have everyone available at the same time due to their weekly appointments and travelling, so we are making the most of this opportunity.
“We have had several online conferences with the top brass of referees as well as joint sessions with the up-and-coming referees, and it has been very beneficial for them all.
“It has been particularly rewarding to see the younger referees get to know the more senior guys and to interact with them and ask questions, which will be valuable in guiding them in their careers, especially since such interaction was not always possible in the past.”
Yantolo singled out another three valuable online sessions they participated in over the last 10 days, which included a call with former international umpire, Karl Hurter, who is currently an umpire coach at the International Cricket Council, and SA Rugby National Teams dietician Zeenat Simjee.
“We thought it would be beneficial to try cross pollination between rugby and cricket especially given the link between television match officials and umpires,” said Yantolo.
“They both have to make important decisions within a short space of time, so it was good to hear first-hand how umpires operate and how they prepare for big matches.
“With the referees being confined to small spaces during lockdown we also placed a high price on nutritional advice so that they can return to the field fit and in shape, hence we roped in Zeenat.
“The referees’ diets are more important now than ever, so they need to know what to take in and what to avoid during lockdown.
“And they have been given training programmes and advice that will ensure that they maximize the space available at home to get in hard training sessions, so even a 10m driveway will do in terms of their workouts.”
Given the good strides made by the department during lockdown Yantolo said they planned to continue their online sessions with the referees, regardless of where they are in the world, in line with their objective to achieve “coherence and alignment” in terms of their decision-making on the field.