“time on the sevens circuit has energised me”
LOVeD reFereeING on the sevens circuit in 2003-04. I went to every tournament in those years, culminating in the 2005 sevens World Cup in Hong Kong. When I heard that sevens would be an Olympic sport I immediately started to dream about how special it would be to return to the circuit.
I have continued to referee test rugby and super rugby, in addition to six tournaments on the sevens series, this year. much like any 15s player who desired to go to the Olympics, I needed to make myself available for the majority of this year’s series. so it’s been a demanding year from a travel perspective. Having had the experience 12 years ago, I knew there were some nuances I’d need to get up to speed on. I joined a very experienced and strong group of referees and arrived with an attitude of wanting to relearn those nuances from these men and women.
the team of referees on the sevens circuit is a very close-knit group, it’s what I love about the sevens environment. teams and referees travel together, share hotels, eat together, train together and we truly feel like a ‘sevens family’. spending weeks travelling and learning together allows us to mould a strong team culture. paddy O’brien (sevens high-performance manager) was very frank with me from the outset, saying that not only would I need to prove myself on-field from a performance perspective but I’d need to fit into the culture and team environment.
Fortunately I immediately appreciated and enjoyed the environment and all were welcoming of me. the lure of going to the Games was my initial driver but the time I’ve spent on the circuit has energised me and it’s an environment I love.
On the field, I have found that the greatest difference and challenge has been around the speed of the breakdown and therefore the need to make quick decisions to allow the game to maintain flow and shape. In 15s the sheer numbers and size of the athletes means the contest for the ball is more about surviving the collision of the clean-outs, whereas in sevens it’s often a one-on-one contest. to ensure you contribute to a positive game shape, you need to be sharp and swift to reward players who get in good positions.
Anther interesting journey for me has been around my physical profile. Wearing Gps
itechnology has allowed the experts at the prime Human performance Institute in Durban to help me to devise training practices which prepare me for the different physical demands of sevens. the data shows that refereeing sevens requires more longer, high-intensity sprints than 15s, so there has been a real focus from my team to devise training habits that conditions me for this.
the other important component is to have effective strategies around long-haul travel, both from a physical wellbeing perspective and the realities of jet lag. then there are the obvious demands of refereeing three games a day, which calls for a professional strategy around warming up and cooling down (ice baths, massages, etc). backing that up on day two is so important as we go into the business end of a tournament. I have loved the physical challenges sevens refereeing provides.
Whilst refereeing across international rugby, super rugby and the world sevens circuit has made for an incredibly busy year, I’ve found returning to test matches after refereeing sevens a fairly easy adjustment. I guess it’s because I’ve refereed 15s for so long now that in some ways it’s second nature.
I’ve found it more challenging going from 15s to sevens. I’m more conscious of the need to be sharp and swift in my decision-making in sevens when returning from time in test-match rugby and super rugby.
Keeping pace Joubert watches NZ’s teddy stanaway