Boks get calm Kiwi Ben O’Keefe as ref against France

10 October 2023 - 15:36
By Liam Del Carme in Paris
Ben O'Keefe will referee the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal between France and the Springboks at Stade de France on Sunday.
Image: David Rogers/Getty Images Ben O'Keefe will referee the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal between France and the Springboks at Stade de France on Sunday.

Ben O'Keefe, a Kiwi with a calm, easygoing demeanour, is the man who will have to drown out thousands of French voices in Sunday's quarterfinal when the hosts take on the world champion Springboks at a frenzy-filled Stade de France.

The Boks have generally performed well with O'Keefe as the 31st person on the field.

O'Keefe has taken charge of nine Tests involving the Springboks with the green and gold winning six and drawing once. The last time he took charge of a Bok Test was in their pool B clash against Ireland last month. Earlier in the year he refereed their Test against Australia at Loftus.

How the referee is likely to react to crowd pressure with the hosts in action at the Stade de France in a knock-out match has come into sharper focus this week.

Paul Williams, James Doleman and TMO Brendon Pickerill complete the all-Kiwi panel for Sunday's quarterfinal.

Meanwhile, South Africa's Jaco Peyper will referee the first quarterfinal between Wales and Argentina at Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Saturday. This, incidentally will be his second quarterfinal after also refereeing Wales in their quarterfinal in 2019 when they beat France. He was, however, stood down for the semifinals after copping heavy criticism for posing for a picture with Wales fans the next morning.

Wayne Barnes (England) will referee Ireland vs New Zealand at Stade de France in Saint-Denis earlier on Saturday.

Mathieu Raynal (France) will take charge of the third quarterfinal between England and Fiji in Marseille on Sunday at 5pm.

O'Keefe and Raynal will referee in the quarterfinals for the first time.

It will be a record fourth quarterfinal for Barnes, moving clear of Nigel Owens, Jim Fleming and Derek Bevan.

The four referees have 263 Test appearances between them.

The wider match official group remains in contention for future appointments at the tournament.

World Rugby said the appointments were made on merit after a review of the 40 pool-phase matches.

World Rugby chair Sir Bill Beaumont said: “I am full of admiration for how the match officials have performed at this Rugby World Cup and the example they set as ambassadors and guardians of the sport’s values.

“They have played their full part in what will be remembered as a compelling pool phase. I would like to congratulate Jaco, Wayne, Mathieu and Ben, the assistant referees and TMOs, and we now look forward to four compelling matches on the road to determining who will lift the Webb Ellis Cup at Stade de France on October 28.”

World Rugby High Performance 15s match officials manager Joël Jutge said: “Congratulations to those appointed. It was a very difficult selection as the performance level has been high. As a team, the match officials have worked hard to achieve consistency of performance and clarity of decision-making that enables the players to do what they do best.

“There is a strong culture within this group and a strong understanding with the teams owing to the preparation achieved over the past year and beyond. While it is the referees who will get the recognition for the appointments, this is a team game. We have an excellent team of referees, assistant referees and TMOs, with a strong team ethic for the group to be the best it can be as a whole.”