Currie Cup Gold for Berry
It's a golden jubilee when you get to 50, a milestone. Stuart Berry, referee, reached that on Saturday when he refereed at Newlands.
He was the referee when Western Province and the Blue Bulls met on the ancient ground. For Berry it was his 50th Currie Cup Currie Cup match - his golden jubilee!
It is a great feat, following in the line referees which started in Kimberley in 1890.
Refereeing is not always plain sailing. Ask any referee worth his salt and he will tell you about bumpy rides, even if his name is Max Baise, Jonathan Kaplan, André Watson, Mark Lawrence - or, indeed, Stuart Berry. But all of them rose up out of the lows to carry on going higher and higher. There are more rewards for those who keep refereeing enthusiastically than for those who shuffle off sulking.
Berry was born in Durban 35 years ago and still lives in Durban. Like Jonathan Kaplan, Berry started refereeing when he was still at school - at Hillcrest High, up the road from Durban. After school Stuart Berry, MSc, graduated from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, still a referee.
Berry is a member of the Kwa-Zulu Natal Referees' Society, refereeing his first league match when he was just on 19, the youngest man on the field. At 21, in 2003, he refereed his first provincial match - an Under-21 match between the Golden Lions and the Valke.
In 2007 he refereed his first Currie Cup match - Griffons vs Pumas - and in 2012 his first Super Rugby match - Cheetahs vs Forced. The next year he refereed his first Test - Japan vs New Zealand in Japan. Not many referees get the All Blacks for their first Test!
In all Berry has refereed 29 Super Rugby matches and 11 Tests - and, of course, 50 Currie Cup matches.
The Currie Cup has been badly affected by the advent and increasing demands of Super Rugby, but it still is the longest-lived competition in the world and one with great traditions.
This year, for some reason or other, Berry was dropped off the Super Rugby panel but has continued in his cheerful, calm and measured way, his refereeing appreciated for its accuracy and good sense. It's certainly not the end. Thousands of referees would love to have had his experiences up to now and those that lie ahead.
Congratulations, golden Stuart