Rugby: Players whose names will live in infamy

South African prop Johan Le Roux. Photo ODT files.
South African prop Johan Le Roux. Photo ODT files.

The All Blacks - two Highlanders, to be specific - have been copping plenty of flak for foul play on their northern tour. But it has not always been the All Blacks up to no good. Rugby writer Steve Hepburn looks at 12 players who will be remembered for dirty acts.

South African lock Bakkies Botha.

It seems strange that a man with such deep religious beliefs could be such a thug at times.

But Botha had a mean streak in his arsenal and it was never far from the surface. He saw more of the judiciary than his wife in some years.

At his best, he was an abrasive and word-class lock. But at his worst, he was a shocker.

In 2003, Botha was suspended for spitting and biting Australian hooker Brendan Cannon, and was accused of doing the same thing to Chris Jack a year later.

He kept picking up the suspensions, culminating in a nine-week ban for an ugly head butt on Jimmy Cowan in 2010.

Danny Grewcock

Another lock who knew how to press the self-destruct button.

He had the physical attributes to dominate games but the Englishman's brain could short-circuit.

In 1998, at Carisbrook, he was sent off after he stood on Anton Oliver's head 20 minutes into the test. The All Blacks scored 64 points.

He obviously did not totally like New Zealand. He was sent home from the Lions tour in 2005 for biting Keven Mealamu. He also missed the 2007 World Cup because he had picked up a suspension for fighting.

Michael Brial

Brial was an abrasive player who played many, many games for New South Wales. But whatever he took in Brisbane before the Bledisloe Cup test in 1996 got his temper going.

Early in the game, he launched an all-out assault on All Blacks centre Frank Bunce. The punches - haymakers, more like - went flying in and Bunce somehow survived the blows.

Bunce would have the last laugh, scoring the winning try as the All Blacks won 32-25.

Trevor Brennan

The fiery Irish flanker was a player who went right to the edge in most of his games.

In 2007, he did not just go over the edge; he flew past it and went well on to the other side.

Brennan was warming up on the sidelines in a game for French club Toulouse, against Ulster, when he alleged someone in a crowd of Ulster supporters made a comment about Brennan's parentage.

Brennan, who had scrapped with Toutai Kefu in the 1999 World Cup, took offence and promptly marched into the crowd and smacked the spectator. Not surprisingly, the authorities took a dim view and he was banned for life.

That was reduced to five years on appeal, but Brennan retired.

• James Small

Fans of Small used to say he was committed. Detractors saw things somewhat differently.

He knew the way to the tryline but some of the ways he got there were not always above board. He took out players with high tackles, and used not only his body to get in the cheap shots. He was the first Springbok to be sent off after insulting English referee Ed Morrison and was constantly in battles with his team-mates.

Dylan Hartley

Any man who starts his rugby career in New Zealand and then ends up leading England must have something wrong in the upstairs department.

People love his aggression but he goes overboard sometimes.

He looked as though he would be a new boy at the 2007 Rugby World Cup but he copped a 26-week ban for eye gouging.

He gave a nice forearm to Richie McCaw in 2010 and got away with it. Earlier this year, he picked up a hefty suspension for biting an Irishman.

Hartley's excuse is he plays in a confrontational position.

Johan Le Roux

The infamous ear-biter.

Le Roux was a solid enough prop who toiled away in a not overly flash Springbok team in 1994.

In the second test at Athletic Park - in the wind and rain, of course - All Blacks hooker Sean Fitzpatrick drove the ball up into a ruck. When on the ground, Le Roux got his teeth out and proceeded to bite down on the ear of Fitzpatrick.

No action was taken on the field. He copped an 18-month ban from the NZRU, but had already left the country by the time it was handed out.

• Daniel Dubroca

The French captain was tough, and you had to be to survive in France. But sometimes that aggression went too far.

He never backed down and was the captain of the French side in 1986 that humbled the All Blacks in Nantes.

There was plenty of eye-gouging, testicle-pulling and punching in the depths of the rucks and mauls that day.

Dubroca was to the fore.

He went on to coach the French team and in 1991, when his side was knocked out of the World Cup by England, Dubroca manhandled referee New Zealander Dave Bishop in the players' tunnel.

• Bobby Windsor

The Welsh hooker formed an impressive front row in the 1970s that helped the Lions to a historic win in South Africa in 1974.

He went to New Zealand in 1977 but his form tailed off.

He always handed out the belts and viewed rugby as a naturally violent game. He got away with most of it, as in those days the television cameras were fewer and it was "just part of the game". He admits that if he played now, he would find it impossible not to get sent off.

• Michel Palmie

They breed them a bit differently in France. No-one is a better example of that than this guy.

Palmie played in the 1970s and in French club rugby, anything was allowed.

The big lock was kicked out of the the game aged 26 after an incident left Racing Club hooker Armand Clerc blinded in one eye.

He would boot anyone at any time but was still good enough to get more than 20 caps for France.

• Kevin Yates

The prop was the first Englishman to play in the Super 12 but there was a good reason for that.

After being found guilty of biting an opponent in a club match in England, he was given a lengthy suspension and decided to head south for a couple of seasons. He joined the Hurricanes, where he was never far from trouble.

• Federico Mendez

In some ways, it is possible to be sent off and still be admired.

Mendez was still at school but good enough to hold up the Argentinian scrum. He was getting upset with the way the English at Twickenham were playing so proceeded to walk across a ruck and punch English lock Paul Ackford out cold.

He was sent off but won fans for his actions against a cheating English pack.

 

Deflection

Excellent list of bad boys and to be sure most of them deserved the tag, but not consistently so.  However, I detected a bit of anti-English bias there.  The article seems to be more about deflection, bringing up all this old stuff when the flavour of the month is bad boys of the All Black variety.