It’s a brutal game with hard hits, aggression and general non-stop physical contact all while trying to put points on the board. Inevitably, rugby games will deteriorate into a complete brawl at times…and here are a few of the memorable times.
5 Crazy Rugby Fights
1. Call of 99
The Lions tour to South Africa in 1974 was dominated by on-pitch violence and mayhem with unruly players taking full advantage of the relative absence of cameras. To deal with the constant clashing, Lion’s captain, Willie John McBride, instigated a ‘one in, all in’ policy which called on the Lions players to take on the nearest Springbok player the minute an altercation erupted. The intention of this chaotic policy was to confuse the referee, preventing the singling out of any one instigator and thereby forcing the referee to either send all or none off the field. The fear of the send-off apparently originated with the 1968 Lions tour of South Africa where John O’Shea became the first Lion ever to be sent off during a tour. Apparently, O’Shea was involved in a scuffle with the home forwards but was singled out as the instigator. The ‘Call of 99’ approach worked as no Lions were sent off during the 1974 tour.
2. The Battle of Ballymore
In 1975, the English sent an underwhelming side to tour Australia, much to the Wallabies disgust. The Australians won the first test convincingly and brought a very physical game to the English in the second test at Ballymore. However, Australian reports indicate it was the Lions who brought the ‘dirtiest game ever’. It started with Robert Jones standing on Nick Farr-Jones’s foot at the first scrum and the Lions forwards waded in with fists flying. The end result was that English prop, Mike Burton, was sent off – the first Englishman in 103 years to do so. Bill Beaumont spent the rest of the game as prop and the Lions went on to win 19-12, and eventually claimed the entire series in the third test.
3. Battle of Tucuman
The Springboks toured Argentina in 1993 but it was at Tucuman that things went awry. Possibly angling to take the Springboks out of action ahead of the weekend’s test, the Pumas brought the heat, and some outright hostility, with five players – three Springboks and two Pumas – eventually being sent off. Even the spectators got involved, spitting on the reserves along the sidelines.
Battle of Tucuman starts at 1:20 in the video below.
4. The Battle of Boet Erasmus
Considered the most violent match in rugby history, the Springboks taking on Canada at the 1995 Rugby World Cup won’t be remembered for South Africa’s 20-0 victory, but rather the major brawl that took place. The Port Elizabeth match was delayed by 45 minutes because of a power failure, increasing the tension, and the resultant match was extremely physical. A scuffle between South African wing, Pieter Hendriks, and his Canadian counterpart, Winston Stanley, ensured, with Canadian fullback, Scott Stewart retaliating with a kick to Hendriks’ head. In an effort to help his teammate, Springbok hooker, James Dalton, joined the fight but this only resulted in a massive brawl. Irish referee, Dave McHugh, eventually sent off Dalton, as well as Canadian captain, Gareth Rees and prop, Rod Snow. Hendriks was cited afterwards with both he and Dalton being banned from the remainder of the tournament.
5. Battle of Pretoria
The second test of Ireland’s tour to South Africa in 1998 saw the Irish side looking to come back from a loss in Bloemfontein. The entire match was marred by off-the-ball scuffles with the second-half dissolving into unnecessary fights between various players. Joost van der Westhuizen kicked Malcom O’Kelly, Paddy Johns punched Gary Teichmann, Victor Costello got in a fracas with James Dalton, Teichmann took on Conor McGuinness and Krynauw Otto was binned after fighting Paddy Johns. After all the fracas, South Africa did go on to win the match.
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