09 Nov 2017
Egon was slow to start playing and then raced ahead on a glittering path. He was reluctant to start refereeing and then flashed into international prominence in no time.
By Paul Dobson, Moonsport
Egon did not meet rugby till he was 15 and did not like his first meeting. He had played soccer at Salt River Senior Secondary but Voortrekker High School in the Cape Town suburb of Kenilworth did not have soccer, only rugby.
He made friends at the school and they played rugby. The main one was Jonathan Mokuena who later went on to play provincial rugby as a loose forward, reaching the Emerging Springboks, now a provincial coach after his playing days.
Seconds says: "We became friends in 1996. He played rugby, and he eventually convinced me to give it a go after I was clocking 10.3 sec in the 100m sprints at athletic meetings. He said I would run away from everyone, and all I had to do when I got the ball, was dot it down behind the try-line.
"He didn’t tell me how much I would love the game after deciding to join him on the field representing our school. We are still very good friends, and talk about those days often."
The reluctant player, who "from the first moment I touched the oval ball, I fell in love", rapidly became a hero. He played at Craven Week for Western Province, went on to the Under-20, and then played for Western Province (88 times) and the Stormers (11 times) and then went on to play for Griquas (23 times). He played Sevens for the Blitsbokke in 10 tournaments, including the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester when South Africa won the bronze medal.
In 2004 he twice played for South Africa A, the second team to the Springboks, on a four-match tour to Namibia and Argentina, and in 2009 for a Highveld/Royal XV against the British & Irish Lions, in the same team as Mokuena.
His playing credentials are impeccable, as his flowing locks sped around the rugby grounds of South Africa.
The flowing locks are gone now but not the speed and not the love of rugby - this time a love for refereeing. As he was a reluctant player, so he was a reluctant referee - with the same result. But let him tell it.
"In 2013, after being retired from the game, Mark Lawrence approached me. I knew him from matches he refereed when I was playing for Western Province and the Stormers. He mentioned that there would be a push for ex-professional players to take up the whistle, and thought I would do well if I decided to become a referee.
"I refused to even consider it, as I told him that I knew what kind of abuse referees went through week in and week out on and off the field. The seed he planted was enough for me to at least think about it. And for a year, I mulled over it, and in 2014 I called him and said I would give it a try.
"I was coaching Under-15 schoolboy teams at the time and knew I wanted to give back to the game. Coaching was a way for me, but never really felt that professional coaching was my way of giving back at the higher levels.
"When I refereed my first game in 2014, after a year of Mark trying to convince me, I fell in love with it, just as I did playing the game back in 1997. I then knew that this could be my vehicle to give back to the game. I was under no illusion of how tough it was going be, and accepted all the challenges, obstacles and even abuse that I would get. My commitment started in 2014, and I do not regret making that decision one bit."
He should not regret his decision for he has made brilliant strides. This year is full of triumphs. In 2016 he was already named on the National Panel and this year he is on the Premier Panel, the highest panel possible for a South African referee. Apart from Craven Week and Currie Cup matches, he has refereed Super Rugby, France Under-18 vs England and, alleluia, two Test matches.
His first Test was between Namibia and Senegal and he has been appointed to return to Windhoek this month to referee Namibia vs Uruguay, both of the teams who have been to Rugby World Cups. Being with him and his family when he received his Test blazer and seeing all the love and admiration that surrounds him was special.
His first Test is one of his highlights and so was being an assistant referee on three big occasions - Argentina vs England in San Juan and Santa Fe when the referees were Nigel Owens and Johnny Lacey and then the third Bledisloe Cup match in Brisbane when the referee was Wayne Barnes and his fellow assistant referee Marius van der Westhuizen and the TMO Marius Jonker.
Those are not his experiences abroad. He has officiating duties in Argentina, Australia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Sweden, Thailand and, Bermuda.
Glamorous but not always so. "I've been away from home for over 100 days, and still counting. Got a few appointments coming up that will require more travelling.
"It's tough on relationships, but I have learnt what is important, and I'm working just as hard with my relationships with partner, friends, family as I do with my career. Finding or working towards the balance that brings out the best in me in all assets of my life. It is work in progress. Always working at being better."
And when he's not away refereeing? "Spend time with loved ones. It helps recharge the motivation, and reminds me why I am doing this."
Already his refereeing career is brilliant, fair reward for a committed perfectionist of a referee.
You cannot do rugby on your own and he has been helped. "Mark Lawrence is still a good friend and mentor in my career. So many people in the Western Province Referees' Society that got me started and helped. Lyndon Bray the SANZAR boss who spotted me before anyone else did and believed that I could make the step up. He also still plays a big role in my development."
How did his playing career help? "The push for ex-players to referee is for their understanding of the game and the players. Using the playing experience to service the game and latching onto the legends that have paved the way in the refereeing world already help. The playing experience definitely adds to servicing the game. As the game evolves, so do the referees."
Did he referee when he was a player? "I did not ref while I was playing. Wish I had, and wish I had read the law book in more detail when I was playing.
What he likes about refereeing? "I love that every match, whether it is age group, provincial, international of even a friendly, brings a different challenge. No two matches are the same, and cannot be dealt the same as the other. This means, that you always have to work hard at educating yourself about the game, the players and even yourself so you can service the game to the best of your ability.
Dislikes? "I accept everything that comes with doing this, good or bad. The obstacles have to be there because that is the only way we grow. With no obstacles, there can be no growth. So I do not dislike anything."
The future, mercifully always an uncertainty? "To be the best I can be at what I do, and making a difference while doing it. I love the fact that we can inspire others, by doing what we love. World cup referee is definitely one of my goals, and I am working hard to achieve that."
Egon Ryan Seconds was born in Cape Town on 16 November 1980.