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Mon Apr 21 16:56:52 SAST 2014

Lawrence bowing out gracefully

Liam Del Carme | 29 October, 2011 23:590 Comments
Referee Mark Lawrence during the Super 14 match between Lions and Reds from Coca Cola Park Stadium on April 10, 2010 in Johannesburg
Image by: Duif du Toit / Gallo Images

YOU won't catch Mark Lawrence saying the wrong Lawrence got to referee at the World Cup, but the popular South African partly based his decision to retreat from the game's sharp edge on his disappointment at missing out on the global showpiece.

At 46, Lawrence is phasing himself out and probably presided over his last major match when he took charge of his second Currie Cup final yesterday.

"When I missed out on World Cup selection I looked at my age and at my the prospects. It was a reasonably easy decision to make.

"Everything now works in four-year cycles. I could be there for another two years but by the time the next World Cup comes around I will be 50. The unofficial but largely accepted age for test referees to step aside is around 45. I've already exceeded that, although I'm in peak physical condition.

"If I step aside now, someone can come in and gain four year's experience before the next World Cup. There's no point me clogging the system."

Lawrence won't be departing the scene entirely. "In the Super 15," said Lawrence about next year, "I'll be more of a back stop. If needed, I'll be available, but my role really will be to coach referees. The same will apply to the Currie Cup. I'll still be on the merit panel."

The affable Standerton optician, who makes his on-field calls with engaging authority, gave a glimpse of what he has had to deal with since debuting on the Sanzar panel in 1999.

"There are 1500 possible decisions that go through your mind but you only act on about 100. Questions like: 'Was that forward? No, it wasn't. Was he offside? No, he wasn't', pop up all the time.

"The problem is if you get four of those 100 decisions wrong, you end up with 96%, which would be cum laude in anybody's book. For referees, that is not good enough and that's why we strive for the attainable."

Lawrence, whose previous Currie Cup final was in 2007 was relaxed ahead of his 112th match in that competition. "I'm sure I'll make mistakes but I trust they'll be minor and won't affect the result of the game," he said.

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