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Overseas tributes to Kaplan

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Much of Jonathan Kaplan's time and refereeing was spent in many lands around the globe, and many of his refereeing colleagues have sent in their tributes to him.

Now that rugby is a 12-months game, a top referee is busy from January to December and it has meant much travelling. That has meant meeting many people and it has meant been scrutinised by many referees. Here is what some of those [people had to say - top people.


Andrew Cole of Brisbane, a referee in 31 Tests and currently Australia's referee coach and an IRB referees' selector.

"JK had an outstanding career over many years. The statistics tell their own remarkable story but don't tell of JK’s passion for the game.

"I was often bemused by his scatty punctuality but when it came to game day I'm not sure I saw anyone more unique and thorough in his preparation.

"He was competitive as well away from the field even in horse racing, running and 500 card games!

"Lots will be written and said about his career but his greatest asset was his feel for the game and ability to provide the best environment for players to play. A true ‘players’ referee’!"

Scott Young of Brisbane, a Test referee and currently the IRB's coach of Sevens referees.

"JK had a great career and most importantly he understood the game and what the players expected of a referee. There is no doubt he will be well regarded and respected by many players around the world and that's something he should be very proud of

"Enjoy your retirement, JK."

Wayne Erickson, rugby's first full-time referee who refereed 27 Tests between 1994 and 2002, a referee at the World Cups of 1995 and 1999, currently the principal of St Andrew's College of Sydney University, the chairman of Australia's referee selection committee and an IRB referee selection committee.

"Lunch at Watson’s Bay, anchovy toast in Cape Town, cards in Cardiff and the best joke I ever heard at a rugby dinner. These are a snapshot of the many memories I have of a shared refereeing experience with Jonny since I first met him in Durban during that wonderful Rugby World Cup in 1995.

"Long, serious conversations about the philosophy of refereeing were often punctuated by remarkable insights on the game and indeed on life. Jonny’s razor-sharp intellect and his capacity to see the funny side of life made him an always interesting companion and colleague as we negotiated together the first decade or so of rugby as a professional game.

"Congratulations, Jonny, on a wonderful career, and on your very significant contribution to the game. I look forward to seeing you “around the village” in a new capacity soon, when we might share some memories and create some new ones over a cup of kindness.


Stuart Dickinson, who refereed 52 Tests between 1997 and 2011in a career that ran parallel to Kaplans who was a bit older

“JK, not the most punctual man on the planet…..yet in the overall big picture it didn’t matter as whenever we spent time together I always came away feeling better and having learnt something new.

"Congratulations on a magnificent career and thank you for being a good friend over so many years. Your knowledge of the game and the spirit in which you always refereed made sure that the players could play and that was the hallmark of your style. It was a great pleasure to travel with you to so many places around the world and our tours during that time where we would make a plan and grab some mode of transport and travel to places rich in history were amazing. We even managed to fulfil history and your other passion, horse racing, with that wonderful trip to Cheltenham Races with Messrs Barnes and White and also winning a 100-1 bet was a fair effort.

"Your achievements in this time are plenty and well deserved but I think your authenticity is what makes you stand out. You were never afraid to speak your mind and it was done to make things better for the game and that is the mark of the man.

"Well done and many congratulations and I wish you all the best in the next phase of life and look forward to speaking again soon.

"Kind Regards, Stuart"


Ed Morrison, referee of 30 Tests, including the Final of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, for many years in charge of England's elite referees.

"I first met Kappers in 1993 while in SA preparing for a SA v France test match to be played at Ellis Park. A few days before the test JK arrived at my hotel to drive me to a local club to referee a warm up game. Before my eyes was a very young man who had a clear picture where he wished his refereeing career should take him.

"The very fact he has refereed so many test matches in an illustrious career is testimony to his determination and commitment to our game. He has gone on to and become a truly great ambassador for his beloved country, respected enormously around the world as a trusted official.

"Upon his retirement I trust the skills set that JK possesses will not be lost to our game and young aspiring referees will have the opportunity to work alongside the great man in developing their own personal careers.

"Well done, JK, your family can be very proud of what you have achieved in the game of rugby union.

"Best wishes for the future."

Chris White, a referee of 50 Tests, the second to do so after Kaplan, and currently the manager of England's referee academy.

"I would just like to add my congratulations to Jonathan for the quality and longevity of his officiating career – we shared some wonderful memories around the world of rugby and Jonathan was a true professional throughout an incredible career. Well done, JK!

"Chris "

Wayne Barnes, still on active referee on 50 Tests.

"Jonathan was the referee in the first ever international that I was involved in; Russia v Spain. Not in Moscow, it was too cold there, but in Krasnodar close to the Black Sea. The sight of Jonathan changing in a hotel room about a five minute walk from the ground, then having to run through a local market with his boots on, surrounded by armed guards to get to the pitch is a memory which always brings a smile.

"We also shared the experience of two World Cups together; both of us experiencing highs and lows at each. JK knew the importance of lending an ear at those difficult times and it is something that I now try and offer to my colleagues if and when required.

"I know that JK has apparently retired form 1st Class rugby, but with his time keeping, you do wonder whether it is really true or if there is just some 'confusion' about what time he was meant to be somewhere!"


Joël Jutge, a referee in 35 Tests between 1996 and 2007, when a knee injury ended his active career as it had his playing career. Currently he is the IRB's referee manager, in succession to Paddy O'Brien.

"Jonathan has been a formidable ambassador for South African refereeing at the highest level and one of the best IRB referees of his generation.

"His record is unique and he has every reason to feel very proud of his career.

"It was a pleasure officiating with him over the course of a number of years. Our discussions about the game were always passionate and friendly.

"I wish him happiness and every success in his new projects."


Donal Courtney, a referee of 22 Tests and currently the manager of Six Nations and European Cup referees and on the IRB's referee selection committee.

“All the very best in your retirement, Jonny. What a distinguished career you have had at the top of world refereeing now for so many years. I really hope we can retain you in the game and refereeing to pass on your knowledge to aspiring referees. You will always be welcome in the Emerald Isle anytime for a Guinness!”

Alain Rolland, who played scrumhalf for Ireland before taking up refereeing, the referee in 67 Tests, including the 2007 World Cup Final.

"I would like to wish Jonathan well in his retirement and I hope he can stay involved in refereeing as he has a wealth of knowledge to pass on.

"It was always a pleasure for me to work with Jonathan and he was one of the best referees to come out of SA.

"I know how he feels at the moment as I too will retire at the end of the current season and I hope his last matches were as enjoyable as mine are."

New Zealand

Paddy O'Brien, the referee in 37 Tests and the IRB's first manager of referees and since 2012 the manager of the IRB's Sevens referees.

"I had the pleasure of refereeing for a number of years with Jonathan and he was always a very passionate and ambitious referee.

"His longevity in the game speaks volumes for that passion. I was also JK's Referee Manager when he was at the top of his game in 2007 and was delighted that he refereed a semifinal of Rugby World Cup.

"I wish him all the best in his retirement and hope he gets a chance of seeing that there is in fact life after rugby."

Colin Hawke, the referee of 24 Tests, recently the coach of New Zealand's elite referees but now back home in Timaru and doing referee development in South Canterbury and North Otago.

"Jonathan has a wonderful record at all levels of rugby and I well remember him as an ‘up and coming referee’ during my travels to South Africa in the 1990s.

"Over a long period he has proven himself as a top performer whilst maintaining a professional yet humble approach to all those around him in our great game.

"A loyal but focused individual, JK joins an elite band of South African and international referees to reach the pinnacle of world rugby officiating.

"I am very proud to know him as a peer and a respected friend, both inside and outside the field of play……

"Go well, JK."

Bryce Lawrence, the referee of 25 Tests, who is now the performance reviewer for New Zealand's top referees.

"JK has had an amazingly long career – it's a credit to his durability and passion for the game that he has remained at the top for so long.

"I enjoyed our chats, our visits to the TAB, our disagreements on rugby and life matters but although I hated how you were always late, I certainly admired your skill, dedication, passion and love of being in the middle of a game, whether it be schools, club or tests."

Lyndon Bray, a referee in seven Tests before he gave up active refereeing to run New Zealand's referees and is now SANZAR's game manager, a portfolio that includes refereeing matters.

"Refereeing is one of those careers which for the most part is quite appropriately tucked in behind the real stars: the players.

"Every now and again, those of us blessed with a sporting bent get to see players who are the epitome of the sport itself. I always remember watching Martin Crowe score a hundred against the mighty West Indies - he batted as though blessed with an ability that no other batsman I ever watched could touch. I saw Adam Scott live in a golf tournament, and watching him hit golf shots was quite surreal - these top, world class players in their sport make it look so graceful, so easy.

"For me, Jonathan Kaplan deserves to be remembered as one of our best-ever referees in rugby. He has always prided himself to understand the game to a level that enables him to referee for the players and with the players. At the top of his form, JK was a referee who not only refereed well, but contributed to the game in a way that many of us can only hope to achieve.

:His longevity is extraordinary & he deserves to be considered one of the greats of all time. He too, in his own way, made refereeing look graceful and easy.

'Congratulations on an extraordinary career.

"Lyndon Bray"

Paul Honiss, the referee of 46 Tests,recently appointed a SANZAR perfor,mance reviewer (Assessor.

"In regards to Kappers's retirement - about bloody time!

"No seriously, what an amazing career, and to have lasted as long as he did is testament to his dedication and commitment to be the best that he could possibly be on the refereeing world stage.

"I have been fortunate to have spent many special occasions with Kappers over the years. I particularly remember our first World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Dublin back in 1998. We were at the IRFU Head Office when the Webb Ellis Cup arrived and Kappers and I were photographed on each side of it as if we were in a 'tug-of-war' contest to see who could take it away from the other. Some IRB members would probably have a fit if they could see the photograph today!

'I always looked forward to Jonno's travelling to NZ so that my wife and I could catch up with him and find out how his love life was developing - and we are still asking the same question after almost 15 years of trying!

"Hopefully now that he has officially hung up his whistle and boots, he may be able to focus more of his personal time into other areas of his life and officially settle down.

"Wishing Kappers all the very best in his retirement and special congratulations on a fabulous career!"


Nigel Owens, the referee of 50 Tests between 2003 and 2013, including two splendid matches in 2013 between the All Blacks and the Springboks in Johannesburg and the All Blacks and Ireland in Dublin.

"Jonathan was a great referee and thouroughly deserves all the plaudits he has had for so many years at the top of the game.

I had the pleasure of working with him many a times and I wish him all the best for the future and hope he will still be involved in refereeing in some capacity for many years to come". advert