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Springboks want to hire Nigel Owens ahead of RWC - report

By Ian Cameron
Referee Nigel Owens speaks to Fourie du Preez, South Africa. 2015 Rugby World Cup, Pool B, South Africa v Scotland, St James' Park, Newcastle, England. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE (Photo by Sportsfile/Corbis/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Springboks are reportedly set to make a bid to hire retired referee Nigel Owens to come and consult for the team ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.

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Head coach Jacques Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus are apparently looking to use Owens’ refereeing knowledge to give them an edge at the tournament, mirroring France head coach Fabien Galthie’s hiring of Jerome Garces.

According to South African news outlet City Press, the Boks have identified Nigel Owens as their frontrunner for the role of refereeing consultant.

According to the newspaper, if Owens is unwilling or unable to take up the offer the Springboks will “likely to look for assistance from within their own country, with no date yet confirmed for an appointment.”

Owens, who is active on Twitter, hasn’t responded to the story.

Owens – who retired from refereeing in May 2021 – is widely regarded as one of the best referees in rugby history, having officiated over 100 international matches, including three Rugby World Cups.

The apparent Springboks’ plan to employ the Welshman comes in the wake of major controversies around their interactions with match officials. Erasmus received a second ban in the space of a little over a year after he took to Twitter to make sarcastic comments about the performance of Wayne Barnes and other referees during the Autumn Nations Series.

If Nienaber and Erasmus retain the Rugby World Cup, managing their relationships with match officials – both on and off the field – will be vital.

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It remains to be seen whether Owens will accept the Springboks’ offer, but if he does, he could be a valuable asset to the team. With his experience and knowledge of the game, he could help the Springboks navigate the complex world of refereeing decisions and give them an edge in what is shaping up to be a highly competitive Rugby World Cup.

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