Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global
New Zealand New Zealand
France France

Injury ends career of Jaco Peyper as top referee blows full time

By Ian Cameron
Referee Jaco Peyper receives medical treatment after leaving the field to be replaced by Assistant Referee Karl Dickson during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between Wales and Argentina at Stade Velodrome on October 14, 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

International referee Jaco Peyper has announced his retirement from officiating at the age of 43.

Peyper has called time at least partly due to an Achilles tendon injury, which occurred during the Rugby World Cup 2023 quarter-final between Wales and Argentina in Marseille on October 15. The injury has ruled him out from officiating in the upcoming Guinness Men’s Six Nations, marking the end of a remarkable journey in the sport.


Peyper, a native of South Africa, has become a pivotal figure in rugby union after over a decade of officiating at the highest level.

He made his test debut in July 2011, overseeing the Kenya versus Zimbabwe match, and since then, his career trajectory has seen him become one of the sport’s foremost whistlers.

He leaves the field as the sixth most-capped test referee in the history of the sport, having officiated 67 test matches.

His contribution to South African rugby is particularly noteworthy. Peyper stands as the third highest-capped referee from the Rainbow Nation, following in the footsteps of Jonathan Kaplan and Craig Joubert. His expertise and fair judgment on the field have earned him respect and admiration from players, coaches, and fans alike.

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 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 very 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.”

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill 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.”

The Rugby World Cup has been a significant stage for Peyper, where he has left an indelible mark. He refereed 14 matches across three Rugby World Cups (2015-2023), with his 50th test match being the memorable Japan 2019 quarter-final between Wales and France.

He also referred the opening matches of both the 2015 and 2023 tournaments. He refereed the England versus Fiji opener at Rugby World Cup 2015 at Twickenham, before refereeing France and New Zealand at Stade de France on 8 September.


Join free



Trending on RugbyPass


As of today you will need to reset your password to log into RugbyPass to continue commenting on articles.

Please click the ‘Login’ button below to be redirected and start the account validation and password reset process.

Thank you,


Ace 186 days ago

Enjoy the retirement.

Jaco, like all top class refs, has had his share of detractors from (mostly ignorant) fans but he did seem to have a good rapport with the players on the field; not quite Nigel Owens, but still with authority and a healthy sense of humour.

I do hope that he will plow his intellectual capital back into SA rugby and, if the opportunity arises, world rugby.

Load More Comments

Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

TRENDING Scott Robertson's verdict on the Damian McKenzie and Beauden Barrett combination Robertson's verdict on Damian McKenzie