Cape Town - When Joey Klaaste-Salmans and Ben Theron launched the Western Province Junior Referee Programme for rugby in 2010, their dream was to see one of their students morph to the big leagues.
Now that dream has become reality in the form of Dylen November, who recently took charge of the Varsity Cup final between the University of Pretoria and Stellenbosch University at the Danie Craven Stadium. The visitors beat the hosts 29-23.
November said this was a very special moment for him.
“I always dreamed of being part of this wonderful tournament while I was a very young junior referee. I remembered the days when I got the opportunity to be waterboy for the referee in this tournament and never knew that one day I will take charge of a Varsity Cup final.
“This was overwhelming but at the same time exciting. I knew that this would not be an easy game to officiate but a great experience which allowed me to gain new insight and learn new things.
“What I liked most about the match was the spirit in which the game was played,” he said.
The Strand resident was part of the WP Junior Referee Programme for two years.
“I remember Ben Theron approached my former school regarding this programme. My friend and I were keen to join because we wanted to expand our rugby knowledge with regards to the laws of the game.
“We decided to join up and that was where my love grew. However, after high school, I had to decide between refereeing or playing the beautiful sport. I decided to continue my journey with refereeing as I became more passionate about it.
“It is very challenging being a referee because you have to step up every match and contribute towards the game. It is also not easy because there will always be criticism, however, we are only human to make mistakes. We can only learn from them,” said November, who is a fan of former Welsh international rugby union referee Nigel Owens.
“I always loved how he controlled the game and contributed to the game with his awesome techniques. (Moving forward) I would like to grab most of the opportunities that come my way, continue to work hard and always learn from others,” he said.
“I would like to motivate other referees to continue with this lovely career. I know it can be tough and many times you feel under pressure. However, it does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop,” he added.
November blew the whistle at WP club matches, Currie Cup first division matches and Varsity Cup matches.
Klaaste-Salmans said seeing November on the big stage warmed his heart and brought tears to his eyes.
“We (Ben and I) were extremely proud of Dylen’s achievements so far. The final was very special as we realised the hard work we put into the school referees was paying dividends. Dylen is the first referee of the programme to make it onto the SA Rugby Referees Panels.
“We see the importance of a junior programme and encourage all girls and boys who are interested to take up this hobby. It may just be your time (to) follow in Dylen’s footsteps,” he said.