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Top referee calls time on career following injury concerns that left him unable to continue

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Friday Jan 19, 2024

Elite referee Jaco Peyper has announced his immediate retirement after failing to recover from an Achilles tendon injury that occurred during the Rugby World Cup 2023 quarter-final between Wales and Argentina.

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The 43-year-old would have been expected to take part in the upcoming Six Nations, but the injury has sadly meant an end to the prestigious official’s career instead. The South African exits his time at the top level as the sixth most-capped referee in test history having officiated 67 test matches.

PARIS, FRANCE – OCTOBER 29: (L to R) Match Officials Wayne Barnes, Matthew Carley, Tom Foley, Brian MacNeice, Ben Whitehouse, Mathieu Raynal, Luke Pearce, Jaco Peyper, Andrew Brace, Angus Gardner and Karl Dickson pose for a photograph on the Red Carpet as they arrive at the World Rugby Awards at Opera Garnier on October 29, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Dan Mullan – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Hear from the referee himself:

Jaco Peyper

“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.

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“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.”

MARSEILLE, FRANCE – OCTOBER 14: 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)

World Rugby High Performance 15s Match Officials Manager, Joël Jutge

“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

“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.

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“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.”

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