Carter: We feared for our lives

Dan Carter experienced a night of violence when he was with the New Zealand U21 team in South Africa in 2002.

The flyhalf's autobiography, Dan Carter − My Story, details a savage beating several of his teammates suffered from bouncers at a 'dodgy' South African nightclub, including a vicious pistol-whipping endured by Sam Tuitupou.

'I still don't know how we settled on that particular place, but somehow half the World Cup squads were there, blowing off steam after the tournament,' he wrote.

Carter soon felt an 'edge' in the air.

'South Africa was still a pretty divided country racially in some scenarios. I remember being vaguely conscious that certain parts of the crowd might have been disturbed by the Polynesians in our midst,' he wrote.

Then things took a turn for the worse, with Carter recalling 'a voice boomed over the club's sound system: “Could all New Zealanders please leave the premises immediately”.'

Eventually once they realised it wasn't a joke, Carter and his teammates made their way to the exit.

After seeing some 'scuffles' breaking out between New Zealand squad members and security staff, and feeling 'things were getting heated', Carter said he and teammate Luke McAlister decided to get away and left in a car.

'We never imagined that our teammates − big, strong athletes in great condition − couldn't handle themselves against a few security guys. We didn't know it yet, but that one random, somewhat selfish decision might have ended up saving our lives.

'As soon as we left, things exploded, players started brawling with the bouncers … [and] reinforcements arrived not long after. It became a scene of extreme violence, and guys were getting seriously beaten up. Sam Tuitupou laid a couple of guys out, before being overrun.

'Then gunshots rang out … our team retreated to the vans. Sam had been pistol-whipped, Jason Shoemark had copped a hell of a beating. As the vans tried to leave, the windows were smashed in − our guys were jumping fences, just running for their lives.'

Carter and McAlister returned to the scene of the carnage to discover their teammates had fled.

'We headed back to the hotel scared out of our minds, still not sure what had happened … When we arrived it was just carnage. There were guys with blood everywhere, guys missing teeth, broken noses, black eyes.

'It was horrifying. Everyone was terrified, scared for their lives, belatedly realising where they were and how quickly things could escalate,' he wrote, referring to the gun that had been pulled. 'We went out a bunch of kids, but came back beaten and bruised, and very aware that South Africa was a very different environment to the one we'd left back home.'

Carter also wrote about being the victim of a mugging the following year while in Cape Town with the Crusaders.

He and two teammates had become separated from the team on a night out for team drinks and, briefly, he found himself alone while they walked to a nightclub.

'Out of nowhere two guys came up and pinned me against a wall. One of them demanded my phone, but I was a bit drunk and cocky. “It's alright,” I replied, “I'm talking on it.”

'”Get your gun out and shoot him,” I heard. My blood ran cold. I handed him my phone, and walked off as quickly as I could, my pulse racing, entirely sobered up … “I hate this country so much,” I said at the time, and meant it. It was a long while before I warmed to South Africa again. Now it's one of my favourite countries in the world.'

Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images

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Simon Borchardt