Blaze Of Glory

Jaco de Wit, Key Stage 3 Maths Teacher at The Cambridge High School — Abu Dhabi, discusses being awarded the UAE blazer for refereeing his first international rugby match and developing rugby at his school.

Jaco de Wit, a high-level rugby referee, was recently awarded a UAE blazer for refereeing his first international match. He started refereeing rugby matches 10 years ago in South Africa and continued to do so after moving to the UAE in 2017. He joined the UAE Rugby Federation and it took a year to get appointed to the Asia panel, which allowed him to referee all the games taking place in the rugby-playing Asian countries. He received his blazer after refereeing his first international match between Thailand and Kazakhstan on 15 May at the Asia Rugby Championships.

Not many referees are awarded the UAE blazer due to a shortage of referees in the country. Anyone who wants to join has to contact the UAE Rugby Federation and they will receive an email with the details of the first meeting in September where all the new law changes for the year are covered.

Aspiring referees are required to take a fitness test and exams, which start with a beginner’s course, followed by levels one, two, and three. These courses apply to all the countries where rugby is played.

“Everybody on a rugby field that is blowing a whistle should have a minimum level one qualification. For level two, referees get invited to second division games, and in level three you can referee world rugby. I did my level three in South Africa and it took about eight months to complete. Honestly, it felt like more work than my degree! Candidates have to submit their diet, how they train, what they think before a game, and they have to be honest because the examiners will pick it up if you are not,” says Jaco.

Jaco’s interest in rugby also extends to introducing the sport to the school and currently over 40 boys participate. He took this year to teach them new skills in terms of being able to play rugby and not get injured that easily. Over his years of refereeing and working as the technical advisor for one of South Africa’s provincial sides, Jaco says he has learned many short cuts and he has found by teaching inside the rules of the game keeping his players safe becomes so much easier.

“We have a senior side and a junior side. We are trying to get Year 7 and 8 together as well as Year 9 and 10 together and the plan is to take them at least once a month to Sports City for practice if we can. The first thing we need to do is set up two seven-a-side teams for the juniors and seniors so we can build a strong team,” says Jaco.

He would also like at least one of the teams to go to a sevens tournament this year, which has a 70 per cent chance of happening. He would particularly like to take the junior team because they are passionate about playing rugby.