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South African referee Ben Crouse will break new ground when he takes up the whistle in the USA’s Major League Rugby (MLR) competition on a five-week assignment in February and March, after receiving an invite from the tournament organisers.

Crouse, who is on SA Rugby’s National Panel, will travel to Salt Lake City in Utah next month where he will referee six matches. His first appointment is for a match between New Orleans Gold and Rugby United New York in New Orleans on Saturday, 16 February, while he will conclude his duties when the San Diego Legion host the Toronto Arrows in San Diego on Sunday, 10 March.

The MLR competition, which features 10 teams, was launched in 2017 with the objective of driving American rugby to a higher levels as a professional sport, and as an avenue for young men and women to participate in sport.

“This exchange programme serves as a fantastic opportunity for Ben and for the SA Rugby Referee department,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.

“With rugby growing worldwide, this will offer Ben a rare opportunity to experience American rugby first-hand and to grow further in his career.

“Last year we had a few up-and-coming European referees officiate Craven Week matches to expose them to South African rugby, and this opportunity will allow us to further contribute to the growth of the global rugby community, while at the same time investing in our referees.

“We would like to wish Ben good luck for this exciting assignment and we know he will be a good ambassador for South Africa and SA Rugby.”

The MRL season will kick off on 26 January, with the Toronto Arrows meeting NOLA gold and the Houston SaberCats going up against Austin Elite Rugby in the first two of four matches in the opening round. The competition is set to conclude in May.

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