The steadfast decision-maker
Jonathan Kaplan, celebrated international rugby referee and former world record-holder for most Test caps, had his fair share of challenging moments on the field. He was known for his commitment to fair play, ability to defuse tense situations, and courage in making difficult, and sometimes controversial, decisions.
All this would stand JK in good stead and come back into play when, at the age of 47, he made two life-changing decisions.
The first was to blow his whistle for the last time and end his career as a professional rugby ref. The second was to become a parent – and a solo parent at that. He had a baby by surrogate, his son Kaleb, as described in his book ‘Winging It’, and two children since, all born in South Africa before he moved to Canada.
Kaplan became the first referee to reach the milestone of 50 Test matches when he refereed the Scotland-Ireland game during the 2009 Six Nations Championship, and increased his total to 70 Tests (as at his retirement).
Kaplan was previously the most experienced Test referee of all time: he became the first referee to reach the milestone of 50 Test matches when he refereed the Scotland-Ireland game during the 2009 Six Nations Championship. He also holds the record for refereeing the most Tests involving a single team: the New Zealand-Wales game in June 2010 was his 17th involving the host nation (ending up in 18), surpassing the record of 16 matches previously held jointly by Welshman Derek Bevan (also refereeing New Zealand) and New Zealander Paul Honiss (refereeing Australia).
Other refereeing records held by Kaplan are: most Bledisloe Cup matches (8); most Tri Nations matches (8); most Six Nations matches (18); only referee to have participated in four British & Irish Lions tours and to have had charge of matches in all three tour countries (Free State v B&I Lions, South Africa 1997; 2nd Test, Australia 2001; 3rd Test, New Zealand 2005; Sharks v B&I Lions, South Africa 2009).
Kaplan is the only referee to have won the award as South African Referee of the Year for four years in succession (2003–07) and five overall.
Here is our Q and A with Jonathan Kaplan:
- Full name? Jonathan Kaplan
- Date of Birth? 7 November 1966
- Steak or sushi? Steak
- Superstitions? None
- Fav Holiday Destination? My kids bedroom at the moment
- Which: BMW or Merc? BMW
- Who inspires you the most? Mr Adversity
- Big night out or quiet night in? Big night
- Left-handed or right-handed? Right hand left foot
- Number of rugby games in charge? 1134
- Number of test matches in charge? 70
- What annoys you most? Govt overreach
- Funniest person you have ever met? Never met him but Ricky Gervais
- Newlands or Twickenham? Twickenham
- Objective opinion: Springboks or Lions to win Test series? Lions narrowly
- What is your biggest phobia? Heights
- Most embarrassing moment? Any number of moments when I’ve been steamrolled on the pitch
- Owen Farrell or Marcus Smith? Owen Farrell
- Most aggressive player you dealt with on the field? Kalla Botha
- Proudest Achievement? My kids
- Economy or business class? Business
- Your star sign? Scorpio
- Single or taken? Single
- Bath or shower? Shower
- Read or Netflix? Netflix
- Would you rather ask for permission or ask for forgiveness? Permission
- Nominate someone for our Q&A next? Hank McGregor & Gary Gold
Two best young players to watch this season
Aphelele Fassi & Damian Willemse
Chosen charity for readers to donate to:
CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation SA