Katzenellenbogen appeared in two Tests, in 2002 and 2003, and more than 100 first class matches, at Vodacom Super Rugby, Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup level, until his retirement from refereeing in 2004.

“Michael basically grew up wielding a whistle as his father, Deon, was also a top-level referee,” said Mr Alexander.

“Referees are important members of the rugby family and we’re saddened to hear of Michael’s death at a very young age.

“He always carried himself with dignity and was at the top of the refereeing game in South Africa. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues in this very sad time.”

Apart from refereeing, Katzenellenbogen was a qualified physiotherapist who lived in Pietermaritzburg. He was diagnosed with cerebral ataxia a few years ago and was wheelchair-bound.

Michael Katzenellenbogen was born on 22 December 1968 and is survived by his wife, Linda, and seven children.