It may be consistent with the current officiating-trends of SANZAAR, but the appointment of South African referee Jaco Peyper for this weekends’ Super Rugby final between the Lions and Crusaders, has to be seriously questioned.
Australian referee Angus Gardner was the front-runner, and easily the most popular candidate to be in charge on the weekend. Gardner–being Australian–would’ve been viewed as an neutral referee for the third-ever Super Rugby final to take place in the Republic of South Africa.
With the eyes of the rugby world looking upon the Southern Hemisphere competition–one of the most popular–the organizers might have chosen to placate the controversy, and appoint a referee who was not from either of the nations involved in Saturday’s grand final.
But on Tuesday morning, SANZAAR announced that South African referee Jaco Peyper will be in charge of the whistle, when the Lions and Crusaders meet at Ellis Park.
Big Mistake To Appoint Jaco Peyper in my Opinion
SANZAAR has strongly defended its decision to appoint Peyper in the final despite the referee being of South African nationality. They say Peyper’s appointment was ‘based on merit’ and according to SANZAAR is consistent with policies over the past two years.
In last seasons’ final between the Hurricanes and Lions, kiwi referee Glen Jackson was in charge, so yes there is merit in what the competitions Governing body claim. But if they are going to be honest, Jackson shouldn’t have been in charge of that match either. The exact same logic didn’t apply then…. and it cannot apply again now.
If the organizers were honest; selecting anyone who might be seen as impartial may have been the best option. The popular choice now is to mend the relationship between SANZAAR and supporters of the game (if nothing else). Although Jaco Peyper is one of the best referees in World Rugby, no one is denying that.
Despite his nationality, Jaco Peyper deserves recognition for his ability to manage the role of referee. But you need to look at the bigger picture, and the issues that SANZAAR are having with Super Rugby at the moment.
It has become a sad state of affairs in recent seasons since the competition expanded into the Japanese and Argentinian markets. Unfairly or not, it has sustained so much criticism about the structure of the competition, that the organization should be avoiding any controvery.
A point to remember is: the Lions did not have to play a New Zealand in the 2017 season. A scenario like that would’ve been unheard of in previous years. A bias toward South African Rugby interests in SANZAAR has been suggested–although it is unconfirmed. All of this conjecture doesn’t give the Lions the credit they deserve.
An Historic Occasion That Deserves Better
It will be an historic occasion in Johannesburg, but SANZAAR have not made themselves look very good at all with the appointment of Jaco Peyper. Again, you’d be overly critical to question Peyper’s pedigree however.
He is, indeed, one of the best referees going round. Appointed by World Rugby to oversee the British and Irish Lions series’ alongside Romain Poite and Jerome Garces. That’s not the point, though. His ability is not in question.
The point is the ‘message’ that the appointment of Peyper sends to followers of the game. In many ways, the supporters why neutrality is important. As Phil Gifford told RadioSport “it was introduced in the 1970’s and seems to have worked well since then.”
Does the Super Rugby Final Need Controversy? No
South African Rugby is in desperate need of success, and fast. The national side hasn’t matched other SANZAAR nations for well over a year now. Yes the Lions are appearing in their successive grand final, but the less said of 2016, the better.
Success at Super Rugby won’t fix that, but it will surely give; at least, a tiny bit of comfort in a much larger discussion moving forward.