The family of a former South African rugby player is in mourning after he was brutally murdered in a French bar over the weekend.

According to local reports, 63-year-old Barend Britz was beaten to death by an unknown assailant who entered the popular Perpignan nightspot Britz owned on Friday (NZT).

The man reportedly stormed the bar and Britz, throwing chairs and breaking windows.

When Britz attempted to calm him down, he was repeatedly struck over the head.

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Britz was rushed to hospital but succumbed to his injuries.

Barend Britz and his son, Barend Jr. Photo / Facebook
Barend Britz and his son, Barend Jr. Photo / Facebook

The suspect, a French national in his 30s, was later arrested by police and is set to appear in court.

He is reportedly "known to police" and has a history of violent offending.

Britz played provincial rugby for Transvaal and Northern Transvaal in the 1980s before moving to France where he became a stalwart for Perpignan.

He retired from rugby in 1996.

Rugby fans from across France have since paid tribute to Britz, who some have described as a "legend" of Perpignan.

Britz's former coach Paul Foussat told local media he was "adored" by the community.

Foussat said he's known the South African for almost 30 years.

"He always called me 'coach Paul', but I did not teach him anything! He knew everything," said Foussat.

Family members told Netwerk24 they were still awaiting more detail on the incident.