Sanzar sticks to its plan to better games

Sanzar has named match officials for the opening four rounds of the Super 14 rugby competition starting on February 13.

Sanzar has named match officials for the opening four rounds of the Super 14 rugby competition starting on February 13.

Australia's Matt Goddard will take charge of the opening match between the Highlanders and ACT Brumbies in Dunedin while Bryce Lawrence of New Zealand will blow between the Western Force and the Blues in Perth the same evening.

South Africa's Craig Joubert takes charge of a derby between the Lions and the Cheetahs in Johannesburg.

The appointments follow Sanzar's ground-breaking decision in November to establish a panel founded on merit not nationality, where referees were no longer prevented from refereeing matches involving their countrymen.

The move was made to ensure that when possible, the best players would be refereed by the best officials.

Already on four instances in the opening round this is applicable. "We are very excited about this new initiative," said Andre Watson, Sanzar manager of referees.

"Coaches and players have asked to be refereed by the best and that's what we're giving them."

A panel of nine referees will be used unless Test duty, injuries or other factors interfere with the plan.

The demand for Sanzar referees for the Six Nations, affects the availability of the panel with southern hemisphere officials taking charge of seven of the 15 Six Nations matches.

That opens the way for referees from the shadow and reserve panels to press their case for elevation. Paul Marks and Ian Smith of Australia have appointments in New Zealand for round two.

Merit Panel: Stuart Dickinson, Matt Goddard, James Leckie (all Australia), Marius Jonker, Craig Joubert, Jonathan Kaplan, Mark Lawrence (all South Africa), Bryce Lawrence and Steve Walsh (both New Zealand).

Shadow Panel: Paul Marks, Ian Smith (both Australia) and Chris Pollock (New Zealand).

Reserve Bench: Phillip Bosch (South Africa), Keith Brown, Vinny Munro (both New Zealand) and Nathan Pearce (Australia). - Sapa

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