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Five of the darkest off-field episodes in rugby union history

By Ian Cameron
Marc Cecillon scores for France in 1995 Mandatory Credit: Shaun Botterill/ALLSPORT

On the whole rugby union prides itself on respect and an ethos of off-field camaraderie. Yet it is as true of rugby as any other sport that inevitably a minority of players will find themselves taking decidedly dark turns on the road of life. Here RugbyPass takes a look at some of the game’s most sordid off-field chapters.


Marc Cecillon

French backrow Mark Cecillon was known as the ‘Quiet Man’ of French rugby in a career that spanned the late 1980s and 1990s. However, after his on-field career ended, his life took a very dark and ultimately homicidal path.

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In 2004 Cecillon shot his wife dead in front of 60 people at a party in Saint-Savin in France with a 357 Magnum. He was originally sentenced to 20 years in prison, which was reduced to 14 on appeal.

The No.8 was released early from prison after serving just seven years but in September 2018 he was jailed again. Cècillion reportedly assaulted a vineyard owner and some other workers who tried to intervene at a post-harvest social event, before drunkenly getting in a vehicle and driving it into a parked truck.

He was sentenced to 12 months, six of which were suspended.


Bees Roux

While at the Blues Bulls in 2010 South African prop Bees Roux was charged with murder after he beat a police officer to death with his bare hands.  Roux’s defence argued in court that he mistakenly thought he was being car-jacked by the victim, Sergeant Ntshimane Johannes Mogale, who had stopped the car the prop was travelling in.

Roux was originally charged with murder, but in a plea bargain agreement, he was convicted of ‘culpable homicide’ and given a five-year prison sentence which was suspended on the condition he pay his victim’s family 750,000 Rand.

He went to France where he continued his professional rugby career.


During the furore over the incident, then Springboks coach Peter de Villiers caused a controversyby saying the Boks were ‘100 per cent’ behind Roux, stating that: “It is an unfortunate reality that these things can happen to anybody. The team supports Bees 100 per cent, not on the deed, but rather on the circumstances that led to the situation developing.”

Poacher murdered on team-building exercise

In 2002 two South African rugby players were jailed for 18 years for murdering a man they found poaching while they were on a team-building exercise on a farm.

Riaan Botha and Ben Korff – members of the Noordelike Rugby Club – caught Tshepo Matloha and two cousins poaching.

A court heard how they beat Matloha to death and then threw his body into a lake in an attempt to cover up the killing. The case was widely reported as a racially motivated crime, although that premise was never proven.

The Axe Man

Another Blue Bulls player makes the list. Joseph Ntshongwana won 9 caps at various levels for the franchise between 1998 and 2001. Tragically, he went on axe-wielding rampage in 2011, hacking four men to death in the process.

He claimed he was avenging the gang rape of his daughter, which he alleged resulted in her contracting HIV. However the court later heard that there had been no rape and that Ntshongwana did not, in fact, even have a daughter.

His defence attempted to argue his innocence on the grounds of mental incompetence due to schizophrenia. They were unsuccessful and he was sentenced to five life sentences.

Argentine bowling alley killing

Earlier this year 11 players from the same Argentine rugby team were arrested in relation to the killing of a teenager outside a bowling alley in Buenos Aires .

The moments after the attack on Beaz Sosa, an only child, were caught on CCTV. The 11 players who were initially being investigated in relation to the killing all play for the Arsenal Zarate rugby club and were all aged between 18 and 20 at the time of the incident.

The trial is yet to take place.


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