26 Mar 2015
Jacques Nieuwenhuis went to two Rugby World Cups as a player - France in 2007 and New Zealand in 2011. Now, just turned 35, he is a referee and loving it.
He is one of three players who have played top rugby in South Africa in recent times are now refereeing. The other two are Egon Seconds and Mpho Matsaung who played in a team captained by Nieuwenhuis.
Jacques Nieuwenhuis was born in Brakpan on the East Rand on 23 March 1980 and he went to school in Brakpan, at Hoërskool Hoogland and he played his club rugby for Brakpan.
So much Brakpan, how did he qualify for Namibia? His mother was born in Namibia, in Otjiwarongo?
After school Nieuwenhuis played for Brakpan and he started his close contact with the union's, which was first Eastern Transvaal, then Gauteng Falcons, then Falcons and now Valke. Nieuwenhuis played a remarkable three seasons for the Valke Under-21 side - 1998-2000. From 2003 he played for five seasons for the Valke senior side in the Vodacom Cup and the Currie Cup, both divisions, and then again in 2012. That was still not the end of his playing career as the tough loose forward went on playing for Brakpan in the Community Cup in 2013 and 2014.
In 2007 and in 2011 he played for Namibia in the World Cup. The Namibian loose forwards were the best unit in the side and Nieuwenhuis and Jacques Burger's were outstanding. After the 2007 World Cup in France Nieuwenhuis was recruited by Aurillac, a Pro D2 (second league of professional rugby in France) club. The club had been relegated from Pro D2 to the amateur, federal leagues, but after just one year had regained its place in Pro D2 and that would start in 2007 late in thee World Cup. Having Nieuwenhuis was a good idea, even though he had been sent off for an allegedly dangerous tackle on Sébastien Chabal in Namibia's match with France. The red card resulted in a one-week suspension. (The other player sent off in 2007 was Hale T Pole of Tonga. He was also suspended for a week.)
Back from Aurillac, Nieuwenhuis played for the Valke again in 2012 and then for two years for Brakpan in the Community Cup, but by then the refereeing bug was biting.
He tells what happened.
"I became a referee April 2014 because I wanted to stay involved in the game. I had been involved in coaching but found that as a coach you don't have any control over what happens on the field as you are far away but as a referee you are in the middle and part of the action and I like pressure situations, and André Watson had sowed the seed with a suggestion that I referee.
"I think I have made big strides since I started. I am feeling much more confident and comfortable than when I started and I am also realising that being a referee is just as hard if not harder then being a player
"What surprised me as an ex-player about refereeing is that it is easier to play then to referee. You have not only the pressure of the players but also a lot of abuse from spectators that you have to deal with while making decisions that can influence an outcome of a match whereas as a player your mistake rarely determine an outcome of a match.
"This is really an amazing experience and I would like to apologise to all the referees I verbally abused as a player. I want to encourage ex players or younger players to get involved in refereeing as it is truly awesome experience .
"Refereeing is absolutely amazing and I regret not starting earlier in my career.
"I really hope to become a professional, international referee and become the only referee to play and officiate in a IRB World Cup."