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On this day: Infamous beer-bellied pitch invader Piet van Zyl tackles referee in All Blacks clash with Boks

It's one of the most famous pitch-invading tales in rugby's history.

Sixteen years ago today Springboks fan Piet van Zyl made his way onto the pitch to tackle Irish referee David McHugh during a Tri-Nations Test between the South Africans and All Blacks in Durban.

The pot-bellied pitch invader was incensed by McHugh's decisions during the match and decided he needed to know about it, dragging him to the ground and dislocating the ref’s shoulder in the process.

However, van Zyl was then greeted by AJ Venter and Richie McCaw, who was in just his ninth Test.

The pair, along with a couple more Springboks, dragged van Zyl away from McHugh, but the damage was already done with English touch judge Chris White forced to take over the match.

The All Blacks went on to win the clash 30-23 and van Zyl was given a lifetime ban by the South African Rugby Union from attending any matches they controlled.

He was fined NZ$330 and charged with assault to do grievous bodily harm and trespassing.

McHugh on the other hand made a successful return to the game, officiating for another two years before hanging up his whistle in 2004.


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