Chiefs lock Michael Allardice has apologised for a homophobic slur made at his team's end of season party at a hot pools complex in Matamata on Saturday.
A man from Waikato, Brendan Barraclough, who was at the complex with two friends, overheard Allardice shouting: "Here come the gays, here come the gays".
"It's an awful thing to hear," Barraclough told Fairfax Media.
"I was going to ignore it, but what if it was someone else that heard it," he said.
"I'm older, I can handle it. What if it was a young guy who couldn't, and went home and topped himself?"
The Chiefs issued a statement on Tuesday in which Allardice apologised for his comments.
"Yesterday while enjoying post season team bonding at a pub and local swimming pool I made a rude comment directed at my team-mate. It was said in jest at a team-mate and I did not intend to offend anyone," he said.
"When I learned of Brendan’s Facebook post and comments to media, I realised he was referring to the comments I had directed at my team-mate. I was not aware he was there, or that he had mistaken these comments as being directed at him. They were not.
"I have today contacted Brendan and apologised for the offence caused by my inappropriate comments, regardless of who they were directed at.
"I have expressed to Brendan that I have taken full responsibility for my actions, but I have also assured him that there was no malicious intent in my comments – I wasn’t yelling at a stranger to inflict hurt.
"I am deeply embarrassed and ashamed of the hurt I’ve caused Brendan and the wider LGBT community and anyone else who I have offended by my comments. I casually used very poor language and have learned a very big lesson today.
"I have chosen to come forward because I believe in being accountable and taking responsibility for your actions, and also because I hope this can be a learning experience for others that homophobic language, even in jest, has wide-reaching and hurtful effects.
"I have also apologised to the Chiefs, as my behaviour yesterday does not reflect the values of our team and organisation."
Barraclough confirmed that Allardice and the Chiefs' chief executive Andrew Flexman had called him to apologise.
"They (the Chiefs) were very good," he said.
"They were on to it, they contacted me very fast and I am quite happy with it.
"It's still ongoing because they don't know what they're going to do about it yet. But the fact that he's apologised about it is awesome."
Flexman said it was a disappointing end to the Chiefs' 2016 Super Rugby season.
"There is no defending those comments," he said.
"We all know they were wrong and should not be said audibly in a public forum."
Flexman said the comments were out of character for Allardice.
"He has learnt it the tough way what should be said in public, but he's a quality young man."