After the New Zealand rugby team lost the 1995 World Cup Final in South Africa against the hosts, rumours abounded for years that the All Blacks had been poisoned. Now a bodyguard for the former South African president Nelson Mandela has voiced the suspicions of many Kiwis and said that their team did fall victim to sabotage.

Rory Steyn said he believed betting syndicates were involved as they tried to target the All Blacks who were hot favourites to lift the trophy which they had first won in 1987.

He said that the team was worried they could be targeted after their semi-final defeat of England and its management decided they should eat separately to the rest of the guests in their Johannesburg hotel which he warned against.

"I said that makes it easier to target them, I didn't think it was a good idea. On the Thursday [June 22] before the final, which was on Saturday [June 24], they were poisoned. About two-thirds of the squad got very sick, properly sick," he said.

In Auckland for a speaking engagement to talk about his time as the chief bodyguard for Mandela, Steyn said: "I believe it was the water that was got at, because the food that was served at lunch time...was chicken burgers and hamburgers."

"I don't think it was the food, I think it was the coffee and the tea and possibly even the drinking water," he said, according to the New Zealand Herald.

"I'm pretty convinced, though I have no proof of what I am saying, that it all involved money and betting syndicates and the fact that the odds were hugely in favour of the All Blacks, they were devastating in that tournament."

After the match, the then All Blacks coach hired a private detective but there was no conclusive explanation for the team's relatively lacklustre display after they had set the tournament alight.

However former All Black Robin Brooke told that there was no way of knowing for certain if the team were poisoned, saying: "Something happened. What was it? Who knows? No one can definitively say what caused it".

The All Blacks lost 15-12 and the trophy was held aloft by Nelson Mandela, in an iconic image that symbolised the new South Africa which had emerged from years of apartheid. The All Blacks had to wait until 2011 to win the World Cup again.