World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has led the tributes to South Africa’s Jaco Peyper, who today announced he is to step down from match officiating to concentrate on new ventures.
The sixth most-capped Emirates World Rugby referee of all time with 67 tests, the 43-year-old is one of the sport’s great referees, having blown the whistle in three men’s Rugby World Cups, 10 Guinness Six Nations Championships and nine Rugby Championships since making his international debut with Kenya versus Zimbabwe in 2011.
Peyper also bows out having achieved the highest accolades in the professional club game, refereeing nine finals – five Currie Cup, three Super Rugby and one Champions Cup final.
A stellar career by the numbers
- 67 tests matches as Emirates World Rugby referee
- Test debut with Kenya v Zimbabwe in July 2011
- Sixth most-capped test referee in history, and third highest South Africa behind Jonathan Kaplan and Craig Joubert
- Refereed 14 matches across three Rugby World Cups (2015-23) with Japan 2019 quarter-final between Wales and France his 50th test in the middle
- Last test was the RWC 2023 quarter-final between Wales and Argentina in Marseille on 14 October
- Refereed in 10 Six Nations Championships and nine Rugby Championships
- Took charge of three Super Rugby finals in 2015, 2017 and 2019
- Became the first South African to referee the European Champions Cup final with Leinster against La Rochelle in 2023
Away from the field of play, Peyper has played a pivotal role in mentoring and championing the next generation of match officials. Reflecting this passion, Peyper was elected to inaugural management committee of the International Rugby Match Officials body in 2023, serving the interests of the top male and female officials on the international stage.
His work with broadcasters, helping to deepen understanding of refereeing and laws, has also been a prominent feature of his time as an international referee.
Beaumont said: “Jaco has been a fantastic ambassador for rugby, a role model for aspiring referees and will be remembered as one of the greats of international and club refereeing.
“But above all the accolades, he is a great person. He cares deeply about the game and championing his fellow match officials. He has played a huge role in the development of burgeoning international referees and is a calm, assured presence within a great team.
“It takes a special type of person to be at the top of their game in the most challenging of arenas, and Jaco has done that superbly. In short, he is a credit to rugby, his nation and his family, and I wish him all the best as he begins a new and exciting chapter.”
Peyper said: “I literally grew up next to the rugby field as my dad was a coach, and later on I played and coached the game before I took up the opportunity to go into refereeing. There are always tough times at high-end refereeing, but since making my first-class debut 17 years ago rugby has only been good to me.
“It's been a great journey, I have made many wonderful friends and I've been fortunate enough to visit many fantastic places around the world. All things considered, now is perhaps the best time to step away from active refereeing to spend more time with my lovely wife and two beautiful daughters, as well as my growing business interests.
“There are many people I would like to thank and will do so personally, but I want to give a special word of thanks to the CEOs of SA Rugby for backing me, the support I’ve received from the High-Performance division, my fellow match officials and World Rugby management, and specifically the Springboks, whom I've worked with closely and who have helped me become a better referee.
“I’d love to say what a super opportunity refereeing is to be involved with the game you love, even though its perceived as such unforgiving job – I have made friends in all rugby playing countries and cultures and see some of the most awesome places whilst we called it work.
“Rugby is part of my life, and I have made wonderful friends around the world through my travels in the game, and although I’m closing the door on active refereeing, I would love nothing more than to stay involved in this wonderful game and plough back after what it's given me.”
World Rugby High Performance 15s Match Officials Manager Joël Jutge added: “Jaco’s impressive career speaks for itself. Beyond the statistics, it was the consistently high level that he operated at over the last four-year cycle that is particularly impressive.
“Beyond the field, his character was evident, and I will never forget how, despite being desperately disappointed that his Rugby World Cup 2023 ended in injury, he unselfishly remained in camp, supporting the wider team, sharing his experience and lifting spirits. It was superb.
“On behalf of the World Rugby match officials management, I would like to say a massive thank you to Jaco and wish him and the family the very best for the future.”