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Note to Editors: A rights-free image of Aimee-Barrett Theron officiating at the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland is attached. Photo credit: INPHO/Bryan Keane.

South Africa’s leading female referee Aimee Barrett-Theron on Tuesday rated the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland as one of her career highlights and said it was a special experience to return to the international spectacle holding the whistle.

Barrett-Theron played in the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2010 in England and the Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2009 in Dubai, but the World Cup in Ireland marked her first as a referee. In a special touch to the tournament, she had the honour of officiating the opening match between England and Spain.

“It was incredible experience to be part of the ultimate tournament in women’s rugby,” said Barrett-Theron.

“Having the honour of taking charge of the opening match made it an extra special experience. The quality of rugby played was fantastic and the tournament was well hosted in Ireland as most of the matches were sold out, so the experience was right up there as one of the highlights of my career.

“I was fortunate enough to play in the Women’s Rugby World Cup several years ago, but being there as a referee was a completely different experience. It comes with a different type of pressure, and similarly to being a player, one is judged on the international stage, so I viewed it as an individual challenge to do my best from start to end.”

In a meteoric rise in her refereeing career in the last two seasons Barrett-Theron had the honour of officiating at the Rio Olympic Games, the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series and the Women’s Six Nations, while she also became the first female to referee a men’s match in the FNB Varsity Shield presented by Steinhoff International, and at the Coca-Cola Craven Week.

“I don’t think it had ever crossed my mind that I would have the opportunity to referee at a Women’s Rugby World Cup or the Olympic Games,” said Barrett-Theron.

“Most people dream of participating in these events as players, but it is fantastic to be involved in a different capacity. These opportunities have opened my mind and proven that there is so much more to the game of rugby than being a player. Refereeing requires hard work behind the scenes and it is rewarding to see it pay off.”

With the World Cup over Barrett-Theron, who became the first woman to be included on the SA Rugby National B Panel, will return to the local refereeing circuit in the next few months, while her focus off the field will be on opening up her biokinetics practice in Cape Town.

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