Rugby: World Cup Achilles injury forces South African referee Jaco Peyper into retirement

Jaco Peyper issues a red card against All Blacks.
Jaco Peyper issues a red card against All Blacks. Photo credit: Getty Images

The All Blacks have lost arguably their most sympathetic international referee, with the retirement of South African Jaco Peyper.

Peyper, 43, has blown fulltime on his career, after an Achilles tendon injury suffered during the 2023 World Cup forced him to withdraw from the Six Nations clash between Italy and Scotland in March.

The 67-test veteran suffered the injury 12 minutes into the World Cup quarter-final between Argentina and Wales.

"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," he said. "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."

Peyper presided over the All Blacks 18 times, including 16 straight victories, before rounding out the relationship with two defeats - the notorious loss to Ireland at Dunedin in 2022 and historic stumble against hosts France in the World Cup opener.

The Irish defeat was marred by a wave of yellow and red cards, and the All Blacks reduced to 13 men for much of the contest, with wing Leicester Fainga'anuku and prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi sin-binned, and concussed prop Angus Ta'avao dispatched permanently for a head clash with Ireland centre Garry Ringrose.

The home side also lost the services of star loose forward Ardie Savea, who was subbed off to allow front-rower Aidan Ross to replace Ta'avao and wasn't allowed back.

Peyper finishes as the sixth-most capped referee in history, after officiating at three World Cups, 10 Six Nations championships and nine Rugby Championships, and taking charge of three Super Rugby finals.

Jaco Peyper is helped off the field at the World Cup.
Jaco Peyper is helped off the field at the World Cup. Photo credit: Getty Images

"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," said World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont. 

“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 joins fellow veteran referee Wayne Barnes on the sidelines, who also retired after the World Cup.