A former South African rugby player has been appeared in court in the Republic accused of  hacking three men to death with an axe has been named as Joseph Ntshongwana.

Ntshongwana, who was not asked to plea at the initial hearing, is a former flanker for the Blue Bulls and appeared today at a court in Durban, accused of the killings which are alleged, by local reports, to have been part of a revenge attack for the gang-rape and HIV-infection of his daughter.

“As the axe came down towards my head, I ducked and it scratched my stomach,” said survivor, Khangelani Mdluli, 27, reports Cape Argus newspaper.

Mr Ntshongwana has been remanded in police custody, due back in court on 7 April. He played for the Bull Blues in the Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup.