The FNB Varsity Cup played an important role in Rasta Rasivhenge’s development as a professional rugby referee.
Rasivhenge began refereeing rugby matches in 2008 when he was a teacher at Jeppe High School for Boys in Johannesburg and continued to do so while at Wits University.
After being encouraged by the Lions to take up the whistle at a provincial level, he blew his first Vodacom Cup match in 2010 and his first Currie Cup match the following year.
Rasivhenge was a referee in the FNB Varsity Cup from 2011 to 2013 and officiated the 2012 final between FNB UP-Tuks and FNB Maties in Pretoria at the age of just 26.
“I had refereed in the National Club Championships but the Varsity Cup took me to the next level where you are refereeing semi-professional players,” Rasivhenge tells VarsityCup.co.za.
“It was such a thrill, with big crowds for every game creating such a great vibe. I just loved it.”
Rasivhenge says it was a pleasure to referee FNB Varsity Cup players during his three-year stint in the tournament.
“That was our next generation, our future stars. They used the Varsity Cup to show their skills and talent.”
Rasivhenge has fond memories of the 2012 final, which saw FNB UP-Tuks beat FNB Maties 29-21 at Tuks Stadium to claim their first FNB Varsity Cup title. One of the hosts’ try-scorers that night, lock Franco Mostert, went on to win the 2019 World Cup with the Springboks, while winger Courtnall Skosan would also wear the green and gold.
“The majority of the players from both sides are currently playing provincial and franchise rugby in South Africa or for European clubs,” says Rasivhenge, who himself has gone to achieve great things.
He refereed 264 matches in the World Rugby Sevens Series across 37 tournaments, including 18 finals. He was also in charge of two Sevens World Cup finals and the Olympic Games final in 2016.
In fifteens, Rasivhenge has refereed 36 Super Rugby matches, two Pro14 matches, one Rainbow Cup match, more than 35 Currie Cup Premier Division clashes, 21 Currie Cup First Division games, and six Tests. In 2015, as part of a referee exchange programme, he refereed Top 14 and Pro D2 matches in France.
Rasivhenge was named SA Rugby Referee of the Year in both 2015 and 2016, and won the World Rugby Referee Award in 2016.
The 35-year-old is grateful for the role the FNB Varsity Cup played in his refereeing career and has some good advice for the young whistle-blowers in this year’s tournament.
“What’s so great about the Varsity Cup is that you are afforded a lot of opportunities to showcase your talent as a referee, while refereeing players who are going to go on to play professional rugby.
“My advice to referees would be to enjoy the moment, embrace the experience, learn as much as you can and use it as a stepping stone to get to the next level.”
– This is the 10th instalment in a series of FNB Varsity Cup Changing Lives articles focusing on those whose lives were forever changed by Rugby That Rocks.