WHETHER on a crime scene or the touchline, local rugby referee and police officer, Francois “Rooies” de Bruin, has a passion for enforcing the law to the letter.
The 32-year-old sergeant from the Kimberley Flying Squad is a regular feature at rugby matches in the city, having officiated in hundreds of fixtures, ranging from the barefoot battles at the lowest levels all the way through to assisting in Super Rugby matches.
With the SAPS National Rugby Week currently under way in the city, De Bruin is looking to blow his third final of this event this weekend and said yesterday that his career and extramural activity of choice complimented each other.
“I’m currently qualified as a Super League referee at Griquas,” said De Bruin yesterday. “I have been fortunate to be the touch judge in Super Rugby games but I would say that the most high-profile game that I have been in charge of would have to be the finals of the Saru Amateur Competition, between the Bulls and Sharks, a few years back.”
De Bruin said that his passion for rugby and the rules of the game stem from his childhood, having become an active referee from an early age.
“Many years ago, as a small boy, I was serving as an assistant referee on the touchline of HF Verwoerd (now Kevin Nkoane Primary School) when I was approached by Kat Swanepoel and Oubaas Wagner, of the Griqualand West Referees’ Association. They asked me if I would be interested in learning more about the game and becoming actively involved as a ref,” De Bruin recalled yesterday.
“I ran touch in Grade 10 but my first game in charge only came a year later in 2002.
“I have always been passionate about making sure that justice prevails and I think this is what attracted me to being both a referee and member of the SAPS.
“It does not make a difference whether you are on the rugby field or on the scene of a violent crime, rules are rules and the law is the law. It is important to make sure that people are fairly treated and I think this is what attracts me to my day job and my rugby.”
The sergeant also added that being a referee made him a better policeman and vice versa.
“As a referee and a cop, you need to have a thick skin. If you don’t have one, you will need to develop one very quickly.
“When you are blowing a match, it is important that you stay calm and composed in order to make the correct call. The same can definitely be said when you enter a high-risk crime scene.”
As for the quality of rugby on offer at the SAPS week, De Bruin was full of praise for the home teams, particularly the Northern Cape women’s side, who he believes are destined for bigger things.
“The various SAPS teams aren’t really on the same level as the provincial Currie Cup sides but there has still been some fantastic rugby on offer this week,” he said.
“The men’s side of the Northern Cape SAPS have been absolutely outstanding and I’m sure that, on their day, they will be able to beat anyone in the A Division of this competition.
“While the guys have been very good, I have been blown away by the quality of rugby that our women’s team has been able to deliver.
“Looking at their results and considering that they achieved these victories when many of them only picked up a rugby ball for the first time two weeks ago, is an absolutely brilliant achievement.”
“Their flyhalf, Constable Meureal Bock from the Upington station, has been unbelievable and has the potential to make some serious waves in South African women’s rugby.”