Maccabi SA News

Maccabi SA coup as Jonathan Kaplan roped in

15 February 2017
By Jack Milner, SA Jewish Report 02 Feb 2017.
Jonathan Kaplan, one of the most respected and highly rated rugby referees in the world in recent years, has been appointed “Director of Referees” for this year’s Maccabi Games. Kaplan, who has put his whistle away on international level, is still maintaining a keen interest and passion for the game.

Kaplan, joined a number of South African Jewish rugby greats when he was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. He will not only referee games at the great sporting event in Israel, but will also conduct lectures and workshops with Israeli referees during the tournament.

“I have been around the world and refereed all the greatest players in all the greatest arenas over a long period of time,” said Kaplan, who is also a Maccabi SA ambassador. “But during that time I did not get to referee my own people at the Maccabi Games, which was very disappointing.

“I am privileged to finally be going to the Games to referee some of the fixtures. I am looking forward to being involved and helping out where I can.”

Kaplan’s position at this year’s Maccabiah is a huge feather in the cap for Maccabi SA, who negotiated the agreement with the Maccabi Organising Committee to appoint Kaplan.

Meanwhile Maccabi SA is confident it will be able to send a highly competitive and well-prepared senior rugby team to Israel in July.

The next step is to raise the necessary funds and the team is therefore embarking on a national fundraising campaign. Maccabi SA appeals to the community to assist the team achieve their goal of winning back the rugby gold medal – which is a real possibility.

Maccabi SA has competed in the rugby competition since the sport’s inclusion at the 1981 Games. In that period South Africa has been one of the most dominant countries in the competition, winning seven medals, including five golds. However, following the limited success of the Maccabi SA Open Rugby XV at the 2009 and 2013 Games, Maccabi SA undertook to review the senior rugby structures and implement improved systems to find a way to regain the much sought-after gold medal this year.

At the start of the team selection process in 2016, it quickly became apparent that the traditional trials process would not yield the required crop of competitive players. Instead it was decided that the best Jewish rugby players in South Africa would be identified and offered a place, based on merit and the level of competition they are involved in. The resulting team is split nearly equally between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The recruitment phase has been highly successful and through the rugby knowledge of team manager Brad Berger, some impressive players have been selected. Notable inclusions are: Jordan Chait – flyhalf (Western Province U19), Hacjivah Dayimani – 8th Man (Lions U19 and Baby Boks Squad), Cullen Collopy – hooker (EP Kings and Barcelona Rugby Club). Captain of the team is Paul Cohen who was the stand-out player at the 2013 Games and a former Varsity Cup player at UCT.

The most important piece of the puzzle is selecting the right coach and the team is lucky enough to have recruited Kevin Musikanth as head coach. Musikanth boasts impressive credentials including a memorable two years with UCT in which that university won both the Varsity Cup (in dramatic fashion) and the World University Cup in Oxford, England.

He is also a past Maccabiah rugby gold medal winner (2001) and is currently the director of rugby at St Johns College in Johannesburg.

His attitude towards winning and “always believing in magic” is sure to inspire and motivate the players.

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