Refs boss Tappe Henning scores officials 8/10 over first two URC rounds | Sport


URC head of match officials Tappe Henning. (Supplied/Vlismas Media)

Tappe Henning, the URC head of match officials, is chuffed with the referees’ performances over the opening two rounds of the 2022/23 season.

The former South African Test referee has given the referees an 8/10 rating, and he’s confident the quality of their performances will improve as the season progresses.

Henning announced three-steps URC bosses will undertake to improve the standard of refereeing: the formation of an independent referee selection panel; the appointment of a set-piece analyst to assist referees; and a referee and TMO pairing system.

“We’ve changed the structure in how we review our match officials’ performances. In the past it was done by the five high performance referee managers from each union and we reviewed the performances and wrote assessments,” Henning said in a statement. 

“We have now switched to four independent selectors (not directly involved in the unions) as a selectors’ panel who do those reviews, with me as the chairman of that group.”

The independent selection panel will feature former Welsh Test referee Nigel Owens, South Africa’s Stuart Berry, Ireland’s George Clancy and Scotland’s Neil Paterson.

“We’ve aligned that to the model that World Rugby is using. The idea is to bring a fresh pair of eyes and thinking into the system. The aim within the next three to five years is to develop a group of elite match officials selected on merit.”

Henning added that it was important to improve the referees’ knowledge all the time. 

“[This] will lead to stronger decision making and more accuracy in decision making. We have appointed ex-Scotland international Steve Scott as our set-piece analyst who will focus specifically on the performance of referees at each and every scrum and lineout and maul. 

“This is to improve their understanding of those phases of play and for them to make better decisions. Steve’s role will also be to engage with the forwards coaches of the clubs to discuss matters they raise and to be our link so that we develop a better understanding between referees and clubs and greater consistency from the match officials’ side.

“And then, as with teams where pairing players in certain positions brings good results, it’s the same for us in our refereeing environment, specifically with the referee and the TMO. 

“Our aim is to appoint the referee and TMO in pairings so the more they work together the better they become, and the less time it will take to make decisions. And to even get to a point where the TMO can also make live calls without stopping the game – to build that confidence between those two individuals. 

“I must stress, though, the TMO’s role is to bring fairness to the game and decisions and not perfection to the referee’s performance. It’s a support role for the fairness over 80 minutes of decision making.”

Henning added the overall goal of all of these strategies was to close the gap between the laws of the game and the referees’ delivery of a decision.

“The delivery of the decision must be understandable to players and fans. The role of the modern referee is to deliver your decision in a way that people understand.”

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