South Africa’s top female referee Aimee Barrett-Theron. Photo: Sydney Seshibedi, Gallo Images

South Africa’s top female referee Aimee Barrett-Theron will celebrate Women’s Day on a memorable note on Wednesday as she takes charge of the opening match of the Women’s Rugby World Cup between defending champions England and Spain in Dublin (3pm SA time kickoff).

Barrett-Theron and Cwengile Jadezweni, who was also a member of the referee panel at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Manchester last year, have been in Ireland since last Thursday preparing for the international spectacle, which runs from August 9-26.

Jadezweni has been named an assistant referee for the match between France and Japan on Wednesday after being called up as a late replacement to the referee panel. 

Barrett-Theron’s appointment as the referee for the opening match follows on an incredible two seasons in which she officiated at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the Women’s Six Nations and the Women’s Sevens World Series, while she also took the whistle in Women’s Rugby World Cup warm-up matches in New Zealand in April.

Her other notable achievements include becoming the first female referee to take charge of an Under-18 Craven Week match in July and in the Varsity Shield.

“It is an honour to be named as the referee for the opening match of the World Cup and to be part of this fantastic showcase of women’s rugby,” said Barrett-Theron.

“It is also a special way to celebrate Women’s Day.

“I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to officiate matches between some of the World Cup teams in New Zealand earlier in the year, and that was the perfect preparation going into the tournament.”

Barrett-Theron, who has become an inspirational figure for many young female referees, also offered advice to young women with aspirations to follow in her footsteps.

“The last few seasons have been an incredible journey for me, and I encourage anyone who wants to take up refereeing to believe in themselves and do their best. If you give everything, anything is possible in life.”

* The match will be televised live on DSTV channel 202, with a 3pm kickoff.

SA Rugby