Jaco Peyper. Picture: REUTERS
Jaco Peyper. Picture: REUTERS

Wellington — Super Rugby governing body Sanzaar has ignored pleas from New Zealand for a neutral referee in Saturday’s title-decider between the Lions and Crusaders in Johannesburg, handing the whistle to SA’s Jaco Peyper.

Peyper’s performance during the Lions’ semifinal win over the Hurricanes drew howls of condemnation in rugby-mad New Zealand, where pundits were scathing of his decision to sin-bin flyhalf Beauden Barrett for a ruck infringement.

The Lions were trailing 29-22 at Ellis Park when the brilliant All Black was penalised and scored 17 unanswered points while he was off the field before closing out a 44-29 win.

Peyper is acknowledged as one of the world’s top refs and Sanzaar defended his selection.

"This merit-based policy was reflected with the appointment last year of New Zealand official Glen Jackson to referee the Hurricanes versus Lions final in Wellington," Sanzaar’s South African-born CEO Andy Marinos said on Tuesday.

"Sanzaar stands behind the policy and believes the best referees should be available to officiate the best matches."

Peyper’s appointment sparked fresh criticism from New Zealand media.

"Wow. Sanzaar appoints Jaco Peyper to referee Super Rugby final. This really is an organisation with its head in the sand," Fairfax Media rugby writer Marc Hinton tweeted.

Local media were already up in arms over the competition’s convoluted play-off system, which had both the Hurricanes and Chiefs play away quarterfinals despite a superior regular season record to those of their opponents.

Reuters

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