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Jaco Peyper denied in 'robust and direct terms' a Nic Berry claim

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images)

It has emerged from the evidence given at the Rassie Erasmus misconduct hearing that Test level referee Jaco Peyper was at odds with his colleague Nic Berry regarding their recollection of a telephone call between them last July in the wake of the first Test win by the Lions over the Springboks. The fallout from that match resulted in this week’s heavy sanction for Erasmus, the Springboks director, who was banned from all rugby for two months and from any matchday involvement until the end of September 2022.


The suspension stemmed from criticisms made by Erasmus about Berry, the Australian referee who was in charge of the Test series opener in Cape Town, and the 80-page written judgment published since the ban was announced has shed light on how the entire case played out.

One sticking point went unresolved, however – the different opinions that were given in evidence by Peyper, a South African referee, and Berry regarding the phone call that took place between them at 7:51pm on July 25, the day after the Lions has struck the first blow in the Test series against the Springboks. 

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Freddie Burns on whether the Springboks will target England’s Maro Itoje and Marcus Smith on Saturday
Video Spacer
Freddie Burns on whether the Springboks will target England’s Maro Itoje and Marcus Smith on Saturday

Their detailed evidence was set out in the post-hearing document published by the judicial committee. In it, it outlined what was said at the hearing by Berry and fellow referee Peyper. “I’m able to get Jaco on the phone,” said Berry. “We speak for ten minutes. He tells me that Rassie has called him and wants him to comment on the clips.

“Jaco refuses and said that it is unprofessional and out of protocol. He says that Rassie is putting AJ Jacobs under pressure to comment on the clips as he is in camp with the SA team. We discuss the fact that Rassie has threatened to leak footage on social media. I ask Jaco for his advice and he suggests that I should try and get ahead of it and respond to Rassie’s clips.”

In contrast, Peyper claimed: “Mr Berry did not indicate to me that Rassie threatened to leak footage on social media. He only asked for my advice whether he should provide answers to the video clips received from the Springbok management team and I recommended that from experience he should do so, as that often defuses the media reporting the next day as teams now engage with the referee and not the mainstream rugby media.


“My view, as expressed to Mr Berry during the telephonic conversation, was that it would be preferable for him to engage with the Springbok management team rather than to ignore the request as in my experience, providing a response has had the effect of diffusing tensions between coaches and referees. This, in turn, leads to fewer comments in the media about refereeing decisions from previous matches and an increased focus on preparations for upcoming matches.”

In their summation of these two contradictory pieces of evidence, the judicial committee wrote: “We considered with care the evidence of Jacob Peyper. He denied that during the call at 19.51 that night Nic Berry told him that Rassie Erasmus had threatened to leak the clips on social media. He denied in robust and direct terms that Nic Berry showed him a draft version of his statement which Nic Berry said he approved.

“Nic Berry was more circumspect in his evidence and characterised the difference as one of recollection. We do not need to resolve that dispute between refereeing colleagues. There is ample evidence, which we accept, which supports Nic Berry’s version of events.”



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