Perpignan has been plunged into grief after a former star player of the club was assaulted and killed outside his bar in the city centre last night.
The Perpignan squad heard of the news as they prepare for their Challenge Cup clash with Connacht tomorrow at the Sportsground in Galway.
South Africa Barend Britz was a legendary figure for the club and played with current Perpignan coach Patrick Arlettaz for six years during which they won the Yves du Manoir Trophy in 1994.
Paddy Jackson, who signed with Perpignan this year, has not travelled to Galway to play against Connacht. Perpignan have sent a massively understrength side as they are concentrating on trying to prevent being relegated from the top flight of the French championship.
They have lost all 11 league games to date and are set to make the drop from the Top 14.
Barend Britz's pub, ‘Bar and Britz’ at Place de République in Perpignan city centre, is a popular spot with rugby supporters and players.
The South African, who was due to celebrate his 64th birthday next Friday when Connacht arrive in Perpignan for the return clash, died after confronting a man in his 30s who was attacking the front of his premises.
It is believed that Britz, a former policeman who grew up in Pretoria, suffered injuries from what the French call "an American fist" — a knuckle-duster - and that he suffered fatal head injuries when he fell to the ground.
The incident happened before midnight. He was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.
Rugby is the most popular sport in the city and news of the attack and death has shocked the local community with several fans and neighbours placing flowers on the path outside the pub.
Perpignan coach Arlettaz, who has arrived in Galway for the game against Connacht, expressed his shock at the death.
“He was a man who epitomised all the good values of our club,” he said.
It is expected that the Perpignan players will pay respect to Britz at tomorrow’s game in Galway and again next Friday for the home match, with Jackson expected to return for that encounter and his first clash against an Irish side since moving to France in the summer.
Jackson and Stuart Olding had their Ulster and Irish contracts terminated earlier this year following the Belfast rape trial where both men were found not guilty of raping the same woman in June 2016.