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'Quality of international refereeing is poor'

Former SA rugby referee Jonathan Kaplan says referees need a lot more attention and resources.

2015 Rugby World Cup trophy on board the HMS Iron Duke. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Former South African rugby referee Jonathan Kaplan believes the current international standard of officiating is poor and that could be exposed at the upcoming Rugby World Cup.

Kaplan who's regarded as the most experienced test referee of all time, has told EWN Sport that quality of refereeing has not improved since the last world cup.

Kaplan officiated at four tournaments between the 1999 and 2011 tournaments.

The 2011 tournament will forever be remembered by South Africans for New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence's poor officiating.

Kaplan doesn't believe the standards have improved since then.

"I think there's probably a dearth of quality at the moment. There are a couple of guys that I think are setting a good benchmark, but there's quite a gap until the next.

"There are two guys that I'm speaking about are Nigel Owens and Craig Joubert. The next blokes are probably Jerome Garces and Wayne Barnes in the eyes of the selectors, although I think there's a huge gap between the two."

Kaplan reckons that only Craig Joubert and Nigel Owens are of international quality.

"The top two are as good as anyone that I encountered during my time as a ref. I think that's partly got to do with the game changing quite quickly now and I think the referees need a lot more attention and resource than they're getting at the moment."

Kaplan says referees will always come under pressure at World Cups.

"In world cup games, there will be questionable decisions and referees will underperform. And that lends itself to the argument that you should really be having more help for the referees from the television match official perhaps, from the assistant referees.

"You'll get it in a couple of games at the tournament, and all referees are hoping it doesn't happen to them, because sometimes it is really just the bounce of the ball."