Johannesburg – South Africa's Aimee Barrett-Theron will this weekend become the third woman’s referee to officiate an United Rugby Championship match, marking her debut in the tournament in the process.
Barrett-Theron will blow the whistle for the fourth round encounter between Italian franchise Benetton and Welsh outfit Ospreys in Treviso, Italy, on Saturday (kick-off 3pm) and will follow in the footsteps of Joy Neville of Ireland in 2018 and Hollie Davidson of Scotland earlier this year.
The 34-year-old is a former Springbok and Sevens-player, playing for the national side in two World Cups before finally retiring in 2014. She subsequently took up officiating duties of the game, and refereed at the Sevens tournament at the Rio Games in 2015, and a year later was included in the SA B-panel for men – the first woman referee to do so.
She made her Test debut as a referee the same year, officiating the Fiji v Japan match in 2016, before moving on to the Women’s Six Nations and 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup. So far, she has refereed 18 Tests and six senior men’s games, including in this year’s Currie Cup.
The only other South African official involved this weekend is Marius van der Westhuizen, who will manage the Leinster v Scarlets encounter, also on Saturday. It will be Van der Westhuizen’s fifth league game.
This will be the last weekend that the South African franchises participate in the URC, until the end of November. Nevertheless, the European-based teams will continue to participate in the tournament during this time, which will hopefully afford Barrett-Theron several more opportunities to continue her personal growth as an official.