The wacky story behind 'Avo man' and his family plans for this year's Sydney 7s

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

Minutes after Andre van der Berg arrived at the Sydney Sevens last year, he knew he was in for a busy day.

Dressed up in a costume he’d hastily banged up a day earlier, the roadside assistance mechanic from Newcastle had figured he’d probably get a laugh or two.

But Van der Berg had no idea he’d soon become the world famous "Avo man".

“As I was walking in, the FoxSports guys - Stephen Hoiles - caught me outside and did an interview, before we’d even entered the stadium,” Van der Berg told

“And that was the start of it. It got crazy pretty quickly, and I soon realised I wouldn’t be having a day on the beers.”

Van der Berg’s schooner count may have been low but such was the impact of his brilliant outfit, he was most definitely a smashed Avo.

Having been shown on the television, the Allianz Stadium big screen and everywhere on social media, Avo man quickly became more in demand than any of the players.

World Rugby tweeted a picture “Best. Outfit. Ever” and the rugby planet agreed. It was their most liked post of the year.

Inside and outside of Allianz Stadium, van der Berg was besieged with fans - and players - wanting selfies and photos.

The Real MVP 😂😂 #avoman

A post shared by Jesse Parahi (@jparahi) on

"You’d be standing and as soon as someone had done a photo, the next person was to the left or right waiting,” he said.

"When I got up to go to lunch, it took me half an hour to get from the gate to the food court. That was about 100m.

"The England girls team came running over, some Aussie guys did it just as they were warming up. It was crazy.”

Forget beers. Van der Berg barely even got to watch the games.

He’s hoping to catch more sevens action when he returns to the Sydney Sevens this weekend at Spotless Stadium, but given he is wearing the Avo man outfit - and will bring his freshly-made 'Avo kids' on Sunday - Van der Berg admits he may be kidding himself.

"I have some suits for the kids - Annabelle (4) and Eduan (18 months) - which I made, but the wife isn’t too keen,” he said.

"Maybe two years ago when she was pregnant, that would have been perfect. My mates think I am crazy, too. They want to stay out of the spotlight.”

Van der Berg loves his rugby, having grown up two hours out of Pretoria in South Africa and in a small-world twist, went to school with Bakkies Botha.

He moved to Australia in 2010 with now-wife Vanessa, initially to Queensland and then to Newcastle.

Van der Berg, who also runs a biltong shop on the side, admits he first stumbled across an Avo suit on Facebook and with a few modifications, built his version the day before he arrived at the Sydney Sevens. A few decades of work via the biltong and the beer had the "seed" already in place.

"I thought ok we’re doing this so I went to Bunnings and bought the gear, and next morning we were ready to go,” he said.

"What’s it made of? Let’s just say if the real estate agent who is missing a 'for lease' sign knew about it, they wouldn’t be happy.”

Van der Berg wants to watch the Aussies and South Africans clash in the pool rounds, and the Fijians’ whenever they play, but otherwise he’s happy to let the Avo Man celebrity roll on for another year at Spotless.

Indeed, he has even bigger plans for 2020.

"I think we may need to do an Avo-lanche. Let’s see how many 'Avo people' we can squeeze into one bay,” he said.

"Also, if the Aussie teams back up and win again in Sydney, I think Raelene Castle and I may need to have a serious chat. They may need me on tour.”