Peyper hangs up his whistle

Jaco Peyper of Bloemfontein during the 2023 Rugby World Cup game between Argentina and Wales in France. The World Cup in France was Peyper's third stint at the global showpiece and also his final act as a referee. PHOTO: GETTY

The Free State and international referee, Jaco Peyper, has called time on his stellar career, and he certainly goes down as one of the best and most experienced officials to ever be involved in the game.

Peyper, who was a promising scrumhalf, took up the whistle due to injuries, and legend has it that becoming a referee was the suggestion of the Free State rugby great, Oom Tat Botha. It turns out to be good advice indeed, and considering that Peyper took control of five Currie Cup finals while doing service at numerous Rugby World Cups, it worked out well indeed for the 43-year-old.

Peyper sighted more time with his family and business interests as his reason for retiring. The time away from home certainly takes its toll on a man who over the years has earned his fair share of flyer miles. A little-known fact is that Peyper has been to Australia alone on well over a hundred occasions.

In announcing his retirement, Peyper said that the past 17 years as a referee have no doubt been good for him, and he would like to remain involved in the game.

“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,” said Peyper.

“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 and 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.”

Peyper ends his career as the sixth most-capped referee of all time. His 67 Tests are the third most by any South African, and this only to Jonathan Kaplan and Craig Joubert. He officiated at three Rugby World Cups as well as several Super Rugby, United Rugby Championship, and Champions Cup playoffs. He also held the whistle in five Currie Cup, one Champions Cup, and three Super Rugby finals.

In addition, he did service in the Rugby Championship, Six Nations and one British & Irish Lions Test, which was against the All Blacks in New Zealand. – MORGAN PIEK