Victor Matfield, left, and Fourie du Preez with a hunted zebra in a picture posted on Twitter at the time.

Cape Town - A trio of Springbok rugby players have been dragged into the global anti-hunting uproar that greeted American hunter Melissa Bachman’s infamous trophy images.

This follows pictures of Bachman posing with a dead male lion, which went viral and caused a storm of outrage.

Twitter has for the past four days been alive with allegations that the players – ex-Bok and now Blue Bulls assistant coach Victor Matfield, and current Boks Fourie du Preez and Bakkies Botha – were avid hunters in the same league as Bachman.

Botha describes himself on Twitter as “Christian; Familyman; PH; Hunter; Conservationist; Ambassador for Blaser”, and on Tuesday posted a photograph admiring the “fringe” on what appeared to be a hunted eland.

Another image surfaced this week – although it dates to 2011 – in which Matfield and Du Preez were seen crouching proudly over a bloody dead zebra.

eNCA on Tuesday night quoted Matfield’s agent Gerrie Swart as saying he did not wish to comment on new reactions to an old photograph.

The players were dragged into the debate after former celebrity columnist Jani Allan – once infamous for an alleged affair with the late AWB leader Eugene TerreBlanche – wrote an open letter to Bachman, asking her: “Do you have any feelings at all? Apart from vanity, that is?

“Your utter disregard for animals and nature is breathtaking.”

Allan also wrote: “You’re upset with Melissa Bachman? Then I hope you’re upset with Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez as well. We deserve better rugby players.”

In response to the image featuring the pair of Blue Bulls from 2011, one Twitter user, Nolene van den Berg, tweeted: “shame on @VictorMatfield @fouriedupreez 4 killing innocent zebra. U the same as rhino killer for an aphrodisiac just worse.”

It was pointed out by one tweeter that it could not be claimed that the hunt was “for the pot”, since few people, if any, ate zebra meat.

As the debate continued on Twitter on Tuesday night, it was apparent that many tweeters did not know that the photograph was at least two years old and that many had become confused in the feeding frenzy.

Among the more abusive Tweets was from user “esskobar”, who described the image in the 2011 photo as “another South African bone head killing for no reason”.

The South African government, as well as tourism authorities across the country, are firm proponents of regulated hunting.

On October 30 Sapa quoted Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa as saying the 2010 hunting season, for which comprehensive information was now available, generated revenue of about R1.1 billion.

“This amount only reflects the revenue generated through accommodation and species fees.

“The true revenue is therefore substantially higher, as this amount does not even include revenue generated through the associated industries as a result of the multiplier effect,” she said. – Staff Reporter