Final whistle for leading batsman Jaco Peyper

Henry

Jaco Peyper, one of South Africa’s best rugby referees and also the country’s most experienced, hangs up his rugby whistle.

Rugby is “part of his DNA”, says Peyper, and he has been privileged to be involved in the sport for so many years.

“I literally grew up next to the rugby field – my father was a coach – and I later played and coached myself before I took the opportunity to become a referee,” says Peyper.

“There are always tough times in high-level refereeing, but since I made my first-class debut 17 years ago, rugby has only been good to me.”

Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby (Saru), described this Bloemfontein blaster as “one of the best ambassadors for South African rugby over the last decade”.

The 43-year-old Peyper was a referee in his last 67 tests at last year’s Rugby World Cup; the third most for a South African next to Jonathan Kaplan and Craig Joubert. He was involved in three World Cups and handled numerous play-offs in the United Rugby Championship, Super Rugby, the Champions Cup and at Currie Cup level.

Peyper, who refereed the sixth most Test matches in history, was in charge of nine finals: five in the Currie Cup, three for Super Ruby, one Champions Cup, as well as two World Cup quarter-finals. He also took the reins in several matches in the Six Nations and Rugby Championship, as well as in one test between the All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions in 2017.

Saru says that next to the field, Peyper also played a decisive role in mentoring and promoting the next generation of match officials. Last year he was elected to the inaugural management committee of the International Rugby Match Officials body, where he represented the interests of all top referees on the international stage.

“His work with broadcasters and his help to deepen an understanding of referee work and rules was also an outstanding feature of his term as an international referee,” says a statement from Saru.

Peyper was named referee of the year four times.

“In addition to his progression into one of the best referees in the world over his 17-year first-class career, Jaco has also been a wonderful ambassador for South Africa and a role model for aspiring young match officials,” says Alexander.

“His cool, calm and composed demeanor was always a noticeable characteristic throughout his career. Jaco was also always clear and consistent in the way he applied rules and allowed players to express themselves on the pitch.

“We have had some excellent referees since the era of professional rugby arrived and Jaco can be considered one of the best.”

Alexander says that although there is great understanding for Peyper’s decision to retire as referee, it is nevertheless a sad day.

“We look back with precious memories. We wish him and his family all the best for the next chapter.”

Sir Bill Beaumont, chairman of World Rugby, also paid tribute to Peyper.

“Jaco was a fantastic ambassador for rugby, a role model for prospective referees and will be remembered as one of the greats of international and club rugby.

“More than even all the tributes, Jaco is a wonderful person. He cares deeply for the game and for the promotion of his fellow match officials. He has played an enormous role in the development of budding international referees and is a calm, confident presence within a great team,” said Beaumont.

“It takes a special kind of person to be at their best in the most challenging arenas and Jaco did it superbly. In short, he is an asset to rugby, his country and his family and I wish him all the best in a new and exciting chapter.”

Peyper also says that the journey here has been incredible and that he has made many wonderful friends along the way, and has been fortunate enough to visit incredible places around the world.

“All things considered, now is probably the best time to retire from active refereeing to spend more time with my lovely wife and two beautiful daughters, as well as looking after my growing business interests.”

There are many people he wants to thank, says Peyper – and he will do it personally. However, he wants to give a special word of thanks to the CEOs of SA Rugby who supported him, the support of the high performance department, his fellow match officials and especially the Springboks “with whom I now worked and who helped me to a to become a better referee”.

“Rugby is a part of my life and although I am now closing the door on active refereeing work, I would love nothing more than to stay involved in this wonderful game and plow back after everything it has offered me. “