Nigel Owens column: Why it is so difficult refereeing in South Africa

Nigel Owens column: Why it is so difficult refereeing in South Africa

South Africa is a great country to visit. I used to love going there to referee. You have got so many things to do, so much to see, there are all these different cultures.

But it’s also a very difficult place to go and referee because they are so passionate about their rugby and when they lose they are not happy at all! Whoever is in the firing line gets it, whether it be the referee, the opposition coach, the opposition team, their own team. So expect it to be full on during the upcoming series between the Springboks and Wales.

Dave McHugh, the former Irish referee, was my coach for the last three or four years of my career. He was out there refereeing South Africa v New Zealand in 2srcsrc2 when a big Springbok fan got so agitated with his decisions he ran on the pitch and tackled him.

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I always used to tell McHugh that wasn’t a case of the s*** hitting the fan, but the fan hitting the s***! We always laugh at that. But, in all seriousness, that was totally unacceptable. That fan was dealt with and banned from the stadiums and quite rightly so.

When you are over there, you really knew you are in a rugby mad country. They are very passionate about the game, very similar to us here really. This series against Wales will be their first chance to get the fans out and fill the stadiums since Covid, with the restrictions on crowd numbers being lifted. The supporters, for their part, will be desperate to get back into the grounds.

The stadiums in South Africa always generate a good atmosphere because the fans are so passionate. When you are in some of the grounds in New Zealand and Australia, because they are shared with cricket, the atmosphere is not as intense. Some

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