All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith has delivered an emotional apology on Thursday after being handed a suspension over an airport sex scandal.
The All Blacks suspended Smith over a toilet tryst with a woman at a busy airport, in the latest scandal to hit the beleaguered New Zealand Rugby union.
Smith broke down in tears as he spoke to media in South Africa before being sent home to deal with the personal fallout from the situation, with the unidentified woman in the situation not his partner, Tegan.
"I’ve made a huge mistake, a huge error in judgement," he said.
"I’d firstly like to say a huge sorry to my partner Tegan, her family, my family. Also sorry to my teammates, NRU and the NZ fans. My behaviour is unacceptable and if you could respect me and my partner in this situation.
"I’m just trying to get home to deal with this."
Coach Steve Hansen said the 54-Test veteran breached team standards and his fellow players felt he should be punished.
"As a result Smith was not considered for selection for this weekend's Durban Test," Hansen said as the world champions prepare for their Rugby Championship Test match against South Africa.
Hansen said Smith was seen entering a toilet cubicle with a woman at Christchurch Airport the day after the Test against South Africa in the South Island city last month.
Commentators said it continued a "season from hell" for New Zealand Rugby (NZR) after incidents involving Waikato Chiefs players and a stripper, followed by a teenage star's violent rampage.
New Zealand media ran grainy mobile phone photographs of Smith, 27, and the woman leaving the airport's disabled cubicle after about 10 minutes.
"This was not discreet, it was 2pm on a Sunday where there were a lot of children and fans around," a unnamed witness told the New Zealand Herald.
"He was in his full All Blacks uniform and there was not an ounce of remorse or regret on his face."
It is not Smith's first brush with controversy. In 2014, he said he was "hugely embarrassed" after a naked selfie emerged on social media but insisted he had learnt his lesson.
He will face a misconduct hearing on his return to New Zealand.
NZR chief executive Steve Tew said: "This was really bad decision-making by Aaron which reflects poorly on him, and on the team."
Tew faced criticism from women's groups last month over NZR's handling of a stripper's allegations that Chiefs players sexually assaulted her during a team night out.
And last week, the organisation made a clumsy U-turn after initially standing by promising teenager Losi Filipo over a vicious street attack on four people, including two woman, in Wellington.
Filipo's contract was eventually terminated after a massive public backlash.
Fairfax Media rugby writer Duncan Johnstone said NZR would be fuming over Smith's latest indiscretion.
"This has hit them at their highest level -- their beloved All Blacks, their global face and marketing giant, the pillar of their revenue," he wrote.
Herald columnist Chris Rattue said rugby was "turning into a national embarrassment" and needed to come down hard on Smith.
"Smith has treated his partner, the public, his teammates and the All Black fans with contempt," he said. "He is coming across as an arrogant prat."
NZR has long prided itself on its off-field discipline, espousing the mantra "better people make better All Blacks".
However, with the squeaky-clean image in danger of becoming tarnished, Tew said he had called a review.
"We are taking action to improve the culture of our game and are about to embark on an independent review of respect and responsibility in our professional player environment," he said.
"We have drafted the terms of reference and are currently talking to prospective panel members. We will provide an update on this shortly."