SA may not have a team in the PRO14 semis, but we do have a referee!

Cape Town - South Africa’s Stuart Berry has been appointed to referee the all-Ireland PRO14 semi-final between Leinster and Munster in Dublin on Saturday, May 19 and will become the first South African match official to be involved in a major playoff match in northern hemisphere club rugby.

Experienced Irishman John Lacey will handle Friday's (May 18) other semi-final between Glasgow and the Scarlets at the Scoutstown Stadium in Glasgow, at 20:45 (SA time), and Marius Mitrea (Romania) will referee the Champions Cup playoff in Belfast on Sunday, May 20, between Ulster and Ospreys.

The highly-anticipated match between Leinster, the newly-crowned European champions, and Munster, who are coached by former Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan, kicks off at 16:15 (SA time) at the RDS Stadium in the Irish capital.

Berry was one of three South African referees who officiated in the first season of PRO14 rugby, the others being Quinton Immelman and Cwengile Jadezweni, who made his debut with the whistle in the match between the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs late last month.

Apart from 33 Super Rugby matches as referee, Berry has handled 12 PRO14 matches this season.

“Stuart has been a very loyal servant to SA Rugby and has been refereeing for more than 15 years,” said Banks Yantolo, SA Rugby’s referee manager.

“This appointment, in his first year of officiating in the PRO14, is something all of us at SA Rugby are extremely proud of and we would like to wish him well for what promises to be an uncompromising semi-final and Irish derby.”

Speaking about this weekend’s appointments, Greg Garner, the elite referee manager of PRO14 Rugby, said: “The teams who have earned the right to play in these games have put in a lot of hard work this season and so have all of our officials. Match appointments are competitive in nature as we want to bring out the best in our referees ahead of most important games of the season.

“I would like to congratulate John Lacey and Marius Mitrea on their selections and also acknowledge Stuart Berry’s achievement in refereeing a Final Series game in his first season with the PRO14. The South African expansion has been a success, not just with the teams involved but with the addition of match officials such as Stuart to our ranks.”