12 Oct 2017
At the AGM last month, the Free State Referees' Society elected Lourens van der Merwe its new chairman.
By Paul Dobson, Moonsport
Van der Merwe, who is well known on the rugby fields of South Africa and further afield replaces Albert Mocke, who has been appointed as the principal of the exciting new school, the Jake Gerwel Entrepreneurial School, in Bonnyvale in the beautiful Western Cape.
It's a matter of swapping schoolmasters for the Free State referees as, apart from all his refereeing activity, the new chairman is head of the head of the physical science department at Grey College in Bloemfontein. Mocke has been the principal of Rosenhof High school in Bloemfontein.
Van der Merwe is from the land of the Blue Bull - born in Pretoria and educated there at the Hoërskool Staatspresident CR Swart before heading for the University of the Free State where he graduated with a bachelor of science degree and a high education diploma.
He is still in Bloemfontein with his wife Liena (Rademeyer), two sons and a daughter and his American pitbulls which he breeds. Liena is well-known for her involvement in drama as a scriptwriter, actress, producer and director. She is the founder of the Bloemfontein Drama Club.
Like many referees, injury put paid to his playing days and he got more involved in refereeing. After all, at a school like Grey, education does not happen only in classrooms and Van der Merwe coached and, as a part of coaching, refereed. Like many others, he was bitten by the refereeing bug.
He says: "Refereeing is an art and a very dynamic sport. I got 'addicted' to the adrenalin rush before every game, and the satisfaction of getting a decision right."
One of Van der Merwe's great attributes has been the way he has stayed with refereeing, despite the disappointments that come the way of all sportsmen. But then he has had a great career.
He started at the age of 22 in 1999 and then advanced steadily - SA Referees Panel in 2001, Provincial Under-19 final in 2007, Varsity Cup Finals in 2008 and 2016, Currie Cup 1st Division final in 2001 and the semifinal of the Junior World Championship and the Under-21 final in 2012.
That was a good year, 2012. In his career, Van der Merwe refereed 18 Tests. The Tier 1 Test, Italy vs Australia in Bologna, a match which the Wallabies won 22-19, is a highlight and that was also in 2012.
This year Van der Merwe is still out there refereeing. His most recent Currie Cup match came when he was torn from his garden and rushed down to Kimberley to referee Griquas vs Western Province when the appointed referee was not there.
The other big happening this year is that he, like Pro Legoete, has started being a television match official. He says: "I'm very grateful that I now have the opportunity to still be involved as TMO, and to be given the opportunity to pursue this change to the highest level."
And now he is his society's chairman, a position of great opportunities.
The new committee
Chairman: Lourens van der Merwe
Vice chairman: Weyers Strydom
Secretary: Skillie le Roux
Additional members: Jaco Kotze, Marelize van der Merwe, Dewald Smit, Shaun Kortjie (platteland)
Marelize van der Merwe - no relation - is also a former Test referee.