Leading South African referee Mark Lawrence has announced his retirement from international match officiating to concentrate on a new role as a coach and mentor to emerging refereeing talent.
Lawrence announced his decision on Monday, following discussions with Andre Watson, GM Referees for the South African Rugby Union.
“I have had a highly enjoyable and stimulating career as a Test referee but the time has come to move on and assist in developing the next breed of South African Test referees,” said Lawrence.
“I still love the job and will continue to referee at Vodacom Super Rugby level and in South African domestic rugby, but I have to begin to think of life after full-time match officiating. SARU has offered me an opportunity to pass on my experience in a coaching and mentoring role and I leapt at the chance.”
Lawrence officiated in what will now be his 27th and final test when he took charge of the match between USA and Canada in Denver, Colorado in August 2011. His career highlights include refereeing the Absa Currie Cup final in 2007 and Vodacom Super 14 final in 2008. He currently stands on 108 Absa Currie Cup and 66 Vodacom Super Rugby games.
“I have enjoyed an incredibly privileged career at international level and have had the honour of taking charge of some special matches,” he said. “Refereeing is a hugely satisfying role in rugby and it has given me the opportunity to make friends in the game from around the world.
“I’ll miss the role but the time is right to give something back and look to the next generation of South African referees.”
Watson said: “Mark has been one of the world’s top referees for a number of years and has always been popular among players, coaches and fellow officials. He has always had a sympathetic refereeing style and that’s something we want to tap into.
“He will act as a ‘player-coach’ to referees, assisting emerging referees with direction on game management and best operating practice as well as on the mental side of handling the pressure under which referees are placed. We foresee him playing a major role in the coaching of referees going forward and I for one am looking forward to him adding his flavour and style.
“He has had a great career as an international referee and deserved every game and every plaudit he has earned and I’m sure he will be equally successful in his new role.”
Lawrence will continue at first-class level but will immediately begin his coaching role within SARU’s successful, existing referee development programmes.