Zimbabwe’s Precious Pazani says officiating in the Women’s Six Nations will be a landmark in her career, as she gets set for her first game on Sunday when France host Italy.
Pazani, a former player for Zimbabwe’s seven’s team, will be an assistant referee for the championship, which began on 26 March and runs until 30 April.
South Africa’s Aimee Barrett-Theron will be the other assistant referee for Sunday’s clash in Grenoble.
“From watching the Six Nations back at home, I’ve always been keen and thought it would be nice to be involved in such tournaments,” Pazani told BBC Sport Africa.
“Now I am here and living that dream.”
“I am really excited about it and can’t wait to be part of it. It is a bigger challenge, a bigger game and bigger exposure. I am really chuffed that I got that appointment. It’s big for me – I am really happy.”
Zimbabwean rugby referee, Precious Pazani, an ever improving rugby referee will officiate at the Six Nations u20 championship, this year. She officiated her first Test match when she did the SA v Spain women’s Test in SA pic.twitter.com/PdKarguS2P
— cheryl roberts (@cherylroberts00) January 19, 2022
Pazani refereed a World Cup qualifier between Kenya and Colombia last September, but believes the Women’s Six Nations, which also involves England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, will be a step up.
“There are some strong teams,” she said. “Compared to the qualifier that I reffed, the women who played in it are not as experienced as these guys.
“Some of the people who play in the Six Nations are professionals. There is some really good rugby being played at this level.”
World Cup target
Pazani believes being involved in the tournament will give her the chance to be selected for this year’s Women’s World Cup, which will be held in New Zealand in October-November.
Her view echoes that of World Rugby’s match officials selection committee chairman at the time of the referees’ announcement.
“The 2022 Women’s Six Nations is a significant step for our match officials on their journey to Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand and builds on recent selections for the men’s U20 Six Nations,” said Graham Mourie.
“Any referee that starts in their career, if you take it seriously you want to be involved in the biggest tournaments,” rallied Pazani.
“The same teams that play at the Six Nations are the ones you most probably have playing at the World Cup.
“If I do make it to the World Cup that would be good because you have already experienced the atmosphere. You don’t get baffled when you get on the park.
“If you don’t get the appointment [for the World Cup], then you are already halfway there and know what it is that you are expecting,”
Pazani – who became a rugby sevens international after previously playing basketball for leading Zimbabwean clubs – believes African women’s rugby is slowly closing on Europe and the rest of the world.
“There is a huge gap between African countries and other countries but I think as time progresses, with a lot of players coming in and a lot more rugby happening in Africa, that gap can be reduced,” she said.
“But right now we are still growing. The rugby being played a few years ago is not the same as the rugby being played now. Things have changed, teams have developed and are playing better.
“It has improved over the years and it is still getting better as the years progress.”
Pazani has already been involved in the men’s Under-20 Six Nations this year, along with Barrett-Theron. and hopes more female officials will break through and enjoy more involvement in the men’s game.
“You also have some women getting involved in it and it’s pretty big. They have recognised a lot of women to be part of it, especially for the Under-20s,” Pazani said.
“It is a good starting point to be having us in the U20s and still doing our own women’s games.
“Hopefully we’ll see one of our own being part of the senior men’s Six Nations. It’s huge being recognised by World Rugby like that. We are going in the right direction.”