Uys Up a Step
February is a dreary month in the north, a hot, bright month in the South, and it starts, in north and south, with a rugby bang. Its first day is of great importance in the rugby calendar – the start of Six Nations in the North and the start of Super Rugby in the South. Divan Uys is not involved in either but it remains an important date in his refereeing career.
The 33-year-old attorney from Durbanville in the Western Cape has been refereeing for 12 years and on 1 February 2020 he will run out onto Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein and referee probably the highest-ranked match he has ever refereed. The match is a PRO14 match, competition for the top, non-national teams of Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy – and the two non-Super Rugby South African franchises, Cheetahs of the Free State and the Southern Kings of Eastern Province.
The South African teams have byes over Christmas and New Year but now have to catch up with Rounds 8 and 9. That started last weekend when the Cheetahs won 31-30 right at the depth. Uys was an assistant referee at that match.
The second match is this Saturday in Bloemfontein and this time, Uys will be the referee. His first such PRO14 appointment.
Pro 14 Rugby has an elite referee squad of 15 referees. One of them is Stuart Berry of KZN. And now Divan Uys of the Western Province Referees’ Society will put his best foot forward and will hope to make his mark as Pro14 has proved to be an extremely valuable tournament of a high quality.
Uys is a man of the Western Province, especially the part east of the Peninsula. He was born there, schooled there at D.F. Malan High School in Bellville, went to university in Stellenbosch (where he obtained BCom and LLB degrees) and lives in Durbanville while he practises law in Stellenbosch, specialising in medical malpractice.
He has always been keen on sport – cricket, athletics and rugby at school and rugby at Stellenbosch, where he made a few appearances for his hostel, Helshoogte, at flyhalf.
One of his happy memories is going with his father to Newlands as a young boy and seeing Chester Williams score a try.
In 2008 he started refereeing, working his way up the ladder of Western Province Referees. In fact it took him only three years to reach 1st league in the Western Province and then slowly attracted the notice of South African referees – academy squad (2013), contenders panel (2015) and then the national panel in 2017, the year he went to Craven Week, a great stepping stone in referee advancement.
Highlights? He mentions three – his first Currie Cup match which was at Loftus Versfeld when the Blue Bulls played Griquas, refereeing at the Under-18 international tournament for England, France, Wales and South Africa in August, and a trip to Ireland.
The Irish outing was last year when Ireland held its Under-18 tournament in Limerick with rugby of a high quality and the opportunity to mix with Irish referees. For him it was a fantastic experience and for which he was very grateful to have. He describes the experience as “really rewarding”.
In fact he has found refereeing really rewarding – mixing with other referees, including those from other parts of the world, the demands of fitness which he sees as something valuable for his general wellbeing and being involved in a game which he loves so much, which was what motivated him to start refereeing.
Uys has great support from wife Karli. They are the parents of three-year-old Ben and there is another baby due soon.
Slim, trim, bright, communicative – he is on the way to great things in refereeing.
All referees will want to wish him well for his Bloemfontein experience.