CAPE TOWN – It’s a new Super Rugby season, and one man who should be especially excited about what the new-look competition will bring is AJ Jacobs.
The 32-year-old referee was last week announced as the only newcomer to the Super Rugby referee’s panel for the 2018 season.
We caught up with Jacobs - who is now one of five South Africans on the panel - to talk rugby, on-field chirps and what makes being the man in the middle tough.
1. You’re the only new addition to the 2018 panel. What were your initial thoughts when you were informed?
I was informed personally, and it was a feeling I can’t describe. I just stood there in disbelief, asking myself "did this just happen?"
2. You played a bit of rugby at junior level, was a career as a player the plan or did you always want to become a ref?
Obviously every boy’s childhood dream is to wear the green and gold - guess it came true, just as a referee and not a player.
3. What has been the toughest part of officiating so far, or what do you least enjoy about it?
There will always be a losing team and most probably it will always be the referee’s fault, according to the losing coach.
4. What has been the best/most enjoyable part of refereeing?
The fact that it is hard being a referee, there are critics all the time. But (I) don’t think I would enjoy it as much if it was easy, it’s the fact that it’s hard that makes it great. (I enjoy the) comradery with fellow referees, going places and seeing the world, and meeting and experiencing other cultures.
5. Is there a referee that you’ve always looked up to, or one that you look up to now?
Jaco Peyper, not just his personality off the field, but also on the field. The way he carries himself and he is an excellent mentor with immaculate experience.
6. Is there anybody in rugby you’d like to meet?
Jake White and Eddie Jones.
7. What do you love most about the game?
Everything! The atmosphere, the camaraderie, the adrenalin I just love rugby. Period.
8. How do you prepare for a game?
I train physically every day, and with the training comes analysing the teams playing against each other, mental preparation and then consulting with my coach Mark Lawrence.
9. The game you’ll never forget?
The 2015 Craven Week and my first Currie Cup Premier game (Free State Cheetahs vs Griquas).
10. Best chirp or funny remark made to you on the field?
There are so many, but if I had to pick one, it would be one that was made after a game in Port Elizabeth between the Kings and Border - “jhey gym jhey, dit lyk lekker!”
11. Your favourite try that you awarded?
Just being right on the spot and seeing the try scored first (is great), but if I really have to pick a try, it would be Rosko Specman’s try last year in a Currie Cup game (Western Province vs Cheetahs).
12. If you could change one thing in rugby, what would it be?
At this moment, nothing. Maybe take out the contest in the air - it never really ends well.
13. Some advice for young refs?
You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets. Dress up, show up and never, ever give up.