Ben O'Keeffe

Scotland’s fly-half Finn Russell speaks to the Referee Ben O’Keefe during the Pre-World Cup Friendly Rugby Union match between Scotland and France at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland, on August 5, 2023. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

Springboks vs Ireland: Who is referee Ben O’Keeffe?

Kiwi eye doctor Ben O’Keeffe will be the man with the whistle when the Springboks face Ireland on Saturday.

Ben O'Keeffe

Scotland’s fly-half Finn Russell speaks to the Referee Ben O’Keefe during the Pre-World Cup Friendly Rugby Union match between Scotland and France at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland, on August 5, 2023. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

New Zealand’s Ben O’Keeffe is among the 12 men chosen as Rugby World Cup referees and will take charge of the Springboks vs Ireland clash this weekend.

While some question the decision to have a Kiwi take charge of a match that could impact New Zealand’s fate, O’Keeffe has acquitted himself well in similar situations and his most recent social media coal-raking came from his home country

O’Keeffe had most recently drawn ire in New Zealand itself over his handling of the Super Rugby Pacific final.

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He was also in charge of the Springboks mauling of the Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld earlier this season.

It may help the Springboks to have a Southern hemisphere referee although many Springboks play their club rugby either in Europe or the URC where they get plenty of Northern refs.

O’Keeffe is known to review his own performance extensively and is generally a calm and considered referee with good instincts.

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He will take charge of the Springboks crucial match against Ireland in the group stage of the Rugby World Cup.

How has Ben O’Keeffe officiated recently

O’Keeffe got a roasting for missing a forward pass in the Super Rugby Final.

Ben O'Keeffe
Referee Ben O’Keeffe gives yellow card to Cheslin Kolbe of South Africa after his challenge on Conor Murray of BI Lions during the Second Test of the 2021 British and Irish Lions Rugby Tour between South Africa and BI Lions at Cape Town Stadium on 31 July 2021 Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

He also wasn’t at his sharpest when he took charge of the Six Nations match between England and France at Twickenham.

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England didn’t manage to muster much in the way of protests given the hammering France gave them but O’Keeffe’s early mistakes fell in favour of the French and the match might have been different but for this.

Notably France’s first try was awarded in error with Marcus Smith tackled and not released before he was driven over the line and had the ball stripped. This incident happened very quickly but the TMO let O’Keeffe down by failing to bring the timing of the tackle and a lack of release to his attention.

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He refereed two Scotland international during the recent Rugby World Cup warmups but returned to New Zealand for NPC duty.

In the Rugby World Cup he whistled France’s 27-12 win over Uruguay without major incident.

His History

The 34-year-old referee and doctor did not have any sort of elite playing career.

O’Keeffe is from New Zealand’s South Island having been born and raised in Blenheim.

He attended the esteemed Marlborough Boys’ College, where he was head boy in 2006.

O’Keeffe is an ophthalmologist and co-founder of oDocs Eye Care which seeks to make eye care more affordable. 

His brother Michael O’Keeffe was a professional footballer who represented New Zealand at age group levels.

RUGBY WORLD CUP POOL ASSIGNMENTS FOR BEN O’Keeffe

France v Uruguay 14 September

South Africa v Ireland 23 September

Japan v Argentina 8 October