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SA Rugby referee, Jaco Kotze, will join Rasta Rasivhenge, Ben Crouse and Aimee Barrett on an experienced panel for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for the 2016-17 men’s and women’s competitions.

World Rugby on Wednesday announced the panel of referees to officiate at the 2016-17 men’s and women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, the first within the new four-year Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games cycle.

The 30-year old Kotze, a trained biokineticist from Bloemfontein, will join Rasivhenge, Crouse and Barrett – all of whom refereed at the recent Rio Olympic Games – on the panel of 21 match officials.

A record 60 referees from 29 unions were nominated for inclusion on this year’s men’s and women’s panels. In all, 21 match-officials have been selected for the men’s, while 12 will officiate on the women’s circuit. Crouse will be in action in both.Only three of the 12 men’s referees selected for Rio 2016 remain, with Crouse, Rasivhenge and Richard Kelly (New Zealand) adding extensive experience to the panel.

Rasivhenge handled the gold medal final at the Olympic Games as Rugby Sevens made its game-changing debut in Rio this year. Several referees are moving on after achieving their Olympic dream, but there is an exciting injection of new talent to both the men’s and women’s panels, reflecting the strong competition for places.

Five former international players have been selected across the two panels. Notable amongst the new inclusions is former England sevens player Richard Haughton, who scored more than 100 series tries between 2000 and 2006. He is joined by other former players Damon Murphy (Australia), Joy Neville (Ireland), Rebecca Mahoney (New Zealand) and Hollie Davidson (Scotland).

Wales’ Anthony Buchanan, chairman of the selection panel, said: “Following on from the success of the Olympic Games in Rio, the selectors were delighted with the interest shown by unions in nominating referees for the 2016-17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

“This is the start of the four-year cycle leading into Tokyo 2020 and it is extremely pleasing to note the number of ex-international players now taking up the whistle.

“Many of those who officiated over the last number of years have moved on to 15s or have retired and so now is the time to bring through the new generation of match officials that will bring us to the next Olympic Games.”

Men’s Panel: Chris Assmus (Canada), Pierre Brousset (France), Ben Crouse (SA), Pablo De Luca (Argentina), James Dolman (NZ), Paulo Duarte (Portugal), Craig Evans (Wales), Sam Grove White (Scotland), Richard Haughton (England), Nori Hashimoto (Japan), Adam Jones (Wales), Richard Kelly (NZ), Jaco Kotze (SA), Damon Murphy (Australia), Mike O’Brien (USA), Rasta Rasivhenge (SA), Matt Rodden (Hong Kong), Tevita Rokovereni (Fiji), Damian Schneider (Argentina), Kaveni Talemaivavalagi (Fiji), Jordan Way (Australia).

Women’s Panel: Aimee Barrett (SA), Beatrice Benvenuti (Italy), Sara Cox (England), Ben Crouse (SA), Hollie Davidson (Scotland), Adam Jones (Wales), Sakurako Kawasaki (Japan), Rose La Breche (Canada), Rebecca Mahoney (NZ), Joy Neville (Ireland), Alhambra Nievas (Spain), Amy Perrett (Australia).

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