In every sport, and every team for that matter, there is always the unsung hero. The person who steadily gets by doing his job and, usually, is a solid performer week in and week out. This is most defiantly the case with André Watson. Although not a player, Watson was probably one of South Africa’s greatest rugby figures, as an international referee. He has achieved a feat no other referee in Rugby Union has come close to - officiating two Rugby World Cup finals. The fact that they were two consecutive tournaments is also a noteworthy accomplishment. His local and domestic refereeing record is remarkable as well. He was in charge of seven Currie Cup finals and five Super 12 finals.
Watson is truly a family man. Although his career as a professional referee meant that he was away from home a lot, he never failed to recognise the support and encouragement he received from his wife and two daughters. This is clearly illustrated in his book André Watson: The Autobiography. He tells us of the notes that his daughters would leave for him in his travel bag reassuring him that he was a great referee and that they loved him. In fact Watson stated that he probably would have retired from the international circuit a lot earlier had it not been for the support of his family.
Although all sports officials come under flak from time to time, Watson is regarded as one of the games best referees and was instrumental in the development of the professional game as far as referees are concerned. He had a special rapport with many of the great payers, coaches and referees that he came into contact with. Rod Macqueen, a former coach of Australia, wrote a piece in Watson’s book stating that he hoped his characteristics on the field would be taken up as a model for future referees.
After finishing school Watson went to the University of Stellenbosch and later the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) where he qualified as an engineer. To help pay for his studies he was awarded a bursary from Murray & Roberts. However, Watson joined the refereeing world after, funnily enough, mouthing off an official at a school match that he was watching. A staff member involved with schools rugby asked him if he could do better. Watson believed that he could and was asked to attend a meeting to tell the referees what they were doing wrong. And the rest, as they say, is history.
For more information about the life and career of André Watson read André Watson: The Autobiography published Don Nelson Publishers.