It's a big night for former MBC head boy

Former Marlborough Boys' College head boy and First XV winger Ben O'Keeffe will officiate at the biggest match of his refereeing career tonight in the IRB Junior World Cup final. The game will feature a powerful South African team taking on defending champions England at Eden Park.

O'Keeffe got his first taste of refereeing during his college days thanks to his father Peter, who has been involved with the Marlborough Rugby Referees Association. However, playing for the college team was his main focus.

O'Keeffe got more seriously into refereeing after moving to Dunedin to study medicine.

"I kind of lost my passion for playing, and after my first year of basically just burying my head in books and cramming, my dad suggested I try reffing," he said.

He was quickly accepted into the fold and found excellent support from the Otago Rugby Referees Association. Unlike many other greenhorn referees, O'Keeffe didn't have to wade through officiating in the junior ranks, starting off blowing the whistle in under-21 games.

The support he found both on and off the field had been a big part of his success over his seven seasons, he said.

The Junior World Cup gave O'Keeffe his first chance to referee at international level, officiating in the England vs Australia, South Africa vs Samoa and Argentina vs Fiji games.

Being chosen to oversee the final would be a big honour, he said.

"Reffing at the Junior World Cup was a big step up.

"It may be under-20 level, but these players are playing for their countries and there is a lot of passion.

"There is a lot of scrutiny," O'Keeffe said.

The Marlborough Express