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