One of rugby’s most distinguished referees has bid farewell in a heartfelt announcement.

South Africa’s Jaco Peyper today revealed his decision to step down from match officiating, marking the end of a stellar career that has seen him play a crucial role in some of the game’s most memorable matches. World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont led the chorus of tributes, recognising Peyper's immense contributions to the sport and praising his legacy as one of the great referees. “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,” said Beaumont. “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.”

Boasting an impressive record, Peyper, the sixth most-capped Emirates World Rugby referee, officiated 67 tests, making him a key figure in the rugby officiating landscape. He leaves behind a remarkable journey that includes three Rugby World Cups, 10 Guinness Six Nations Championships, and nine Rugby Championships since his international debut in 2011.

Peyper's list of achievements extends beyond the international stage, having refereed in nine finals, spanning five Currie Cups, three Super Rugby finals, and a Champions Cup final in 2023.

A dedicated mentor and advocate for the next generation of match officials, he played a crucial role in the development of emerging talents. Elected to the inaugural management committee of the International Rugby Match Officials body in 2023, Peyper continued to serve the interests of top male and female officials, contributing to the growth and professionalism of rugby refereeing.

Beyond his officiating duties, Peyper engaged with broadcasters, helping fans deepen their understanding of refereeing and laws, making him not only a respected figure on the field but also a valuable contributor to the broader rugby community.

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.

“Rugby is part of my life, and I have made wonderful friends around the world through my travels in the game, 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.”