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

Tokyo — In a twist of irony‚ the actions of SA’s top referee, Jaco Peyper, are in sharp focus after he posed for a picture that shows him mimicking elbowing a Welsh fan.

It may have jeopardised his chances of officiating in the Rugby World Cup final should the Springboks not be in it.

The picture‚ in all probability posed for in jest‚ shows Peyper with seven Welsh supporters clad in red holding up his right elbow to the face of a smiling fan next to him.

“World Rugby is aware of a picture on social media of referee Jaco Peyper with a group of Wales fans taken after last night’s [Sunday’s] quarterfinal between Wales and France in Oita.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further while we are establishing the facts‚” World Rugby said in a statement.

The French may not see the funny side because the incident is poking fun at Peyper’s dismissal of French lock Sebastien Vahaamahina for elbowing Wales flank Aaron Wainwright in the 48th minute of their semifinal clash in Oita on Sunday.

Vahaamahina first grabbed Wainwright around the neck before hitting him on the side of the face with his right elbow.

Initially Peyper had merely punished the lock for the neck grab but a quick video review of the incident by the television match official meant it had to be escalated.

“The first action is around the neck‚ then you take your arm away and deliberately you hit with the elbow in the head‚” explained Peyper to the player as he showed him the red card.

France led the match at that point but they eventually went on to lose 20-19.

The French will be particularly sensitive about the result and not so much about Vahaamahina’s actions.

It was a clear red card, but they feel aggrieved too that Peyper awarded a 74th-minute try to Wales’s Ross Moriarty when the ball appeared to be drifting forward.

The picture of a smiling Peyper with the Wales fans is now doing the rounds on social media.

It is unclear whether Peyper’s actions will count against him in refereeing appointments as the tournament builds to a climax.

Peyper, who officiated his 50th Test during the Rugby World Cup, may well be in line to referee the final if the Boks get knocked out by Wales.

Should the Boks beat Wales‚ Welshman Nigel Owens may crack the nod.