TOKYO, 19 Oct – If you think the players are under pressure as Rugby World Cup 2019 enters the knockout stages, spare a thought for Jaco Peyper.
The Bloemfontein-born official should be celebrating taking charge of his 50th test match on Sunday when Wales play France in Oita, putting him 10th on the all-time list (see below). But with the eyes of the world on him, it will be more a case of 'business as usual'.
"Every game is special so I'm pretty pleased to be here, and it's another big game at the weekend," said the 39-year-old. "But with the added pressures of quarter-finals, I hope there’s time to take it in.
"For any referee to get to 50 takes a bit of resilience, so I feel proud that I’m still standing and trying to serve the game as best I can.
"Obviously after the first couple of matches (at RWC 2019) we were under a bit of pressure from outside."
He is, of course, referring to the increased focus on the laws surrounding dangerous tackles.
"It's the safety of the players at stake, so we have to adapt," said Peyper. "It's probably not as easy as things like the breakdown that we referee in our stride, but we have the framework now, not only for players and officials, but also for the public out there, so hopefully that takes away some of the inconsistencies."
The other main thing officials need to adjust to during the World Cup is the frequency of games. During the pool stage, for example, Peyper was assistant referee at Georgia versus Fiji in Higashiosaka on Thursday and by Saturday he was taking charge of Japan v Samoa in Toyota.
"It's a challenge," he admitted. "Normally we cover between seven and eight kilometres a match (as a referee), depending on what type of game it is, but our recovery more or less mirrors that of the players.
"We try to be as professional as possible, and we have a lot of support: strength and conditioning people trying to keep us strong, medical staff and physios to help us refresh and recover.
"Technical knowledge is the starting point to being an elite referee, but you have to have the physical ability to keep up with the players. Then there's the mental side - you have to stay level-headed under pressure."
Peyper will need all that and more for Wales-France.
"I've refereed them once before, in 2015," he said. "It's an intense fixture."
All-time referee test appearances
Nigel Owens 95
Wayne Barnes 88
Jonathan Kaplan 70
Craig Joubert 69
Romain Poite 68