Young refs spend their Spring training in South Africa

By Brian Burns

This year's recipients of the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund scholarship Nicholas Cutrell and Cody Kuxmann spent the spring developing their referee skills while training at the Maties Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The two young men made great strides during their time at the academy and had many unique experiences and opportunities during their time abroad.

Cutrell, 22, is a graduate of Oregon State University and a former USA Rugby referee intern. He began refereeing during his junior year of college and says it helped him become a better player. Unfortunately, an injury ended his playing career, but allowed him to focus exclusively on refereeing.

Kuxmann, 23, began refereeing while still in high school and continued to develop his skills while at University in London. He sees refereeing as a way to "connect with people around the world."

Both referees cite the immersive nature of rugby in South Africa as a huge benefit to the time they've spent at Maties Rugby Academy.

"The Maties Rugby academy is much more than just a place to master the skill of refereeing," Cutrell said. "It throws people into a country where rugby is a religion. Rugby is inescapable and everything we do somehow involves training, talking, or refereeing rugby."

Kuxmann agreed, citing the ability to be involved in the game on a daily basis as a major positive in his experience in South Africa.

The shared goal of the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund and the Maties Rugby Academy is to develop quality referees for the sport of rugby. This is achieved through a rigorous training program that puts these young referees on the field among the world's best.

"The part I feel I've developed most with would have to be the little issues in the game," Kuxmann said. "A running line here a whistle there; the little things that are brought up by our coaches to make the game a bit better."

Cutrell and Kuxmann had the opportunity to referee five to eight times per week, which helped them identify specific areas they need to work on.

"I was able to be a part of the technical zone management team (AR 4) for the Varsity Cup Dream team vs. The Baby Spring Boks," Cutrell said. "We also traveled ten hours north of Stellenbosch to Kimberly SA to referee in an extremely competitive primary school tournament. This tournament had many of the top rugby primary schools in SA. These unexpected experiences have made my time at the Maties Referee Academy unforgettable."

While both young men have had great individual experiences and success while in South Africa, they share a desire to carry what they've learned back to the United States in order to continue improving the game of rugby.

"I plan to help out other referees whether it be through coaching or just talking about takeaways from the camp," Kuxman said.

"I will use the knowledge I have learned at a local level to improve other referees in my society. Helping coach and evaluate referees in my society will help others tap into the information I have learned in the academy," Cutrell said.

Scholarships awarded by the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund raise the bar and create international learning opportunities for up-and-coming referees through generous contributions to USA Rugby Trust. If you would like to support this worthwhile program, please visit the USA Rugby Trust donation page.