Former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has seen some strange things in rugby‚ but his team sleeping on the streets of a foreign city is a new one.
The Zimbabwe national team‚ currently playing in African World Cup qualifiers‚ slept on the streets outside their hotel in Tunisia on Monday night because of poor facilities and lack of funds.
"Rugby Africa has been made aware of the difficulties encountered by the Zimbabwean rugby team — the Sables — with regards to their accommodation in Tunisia‚" Rugby Africa said in an official statement.
On social media‚ former Zimbabwean minister for education‚ sport‚ arts and culture David Coltart confirmed the news. He said he had received confirmation from the father of one of the players in the team.
Images of players on the streets with their belongings were also circulating on social media on Tuesday. Some reports suggested they were each asked to pay a €20 visa fee at the airport‚ which they could not afford and were held there for 10 hours after their passports were retained by officials.
In a voice note sent to Capitalk FM‚ Zimbabwe flanker Takudzwa Mandiwanza said the trip had been a shambles.
"We have not been paid our daily allowances for our duration in Kenya‚ including our match fees that we did not receive. Now we’re in Tunisia‚ we were detained at the airport for close to six hours‚ with no allowances given to us.
"If it wasn’t for the coach buying us sandwiches and a few drinks from his own money‚ we’d be hungry right now. The situation is very frustrating and disheartening," he said.
Khaled Babbou‚ an executive member of Rugby Africa‚ has been sent to the city of Beja to inspect the facilities and meet the Sables team.
"I apologise on behalf of Tunisia Rugby Union‚" Babbou said. "We pride ourselves in hosting the Rugby Africa tournaments every year and make every effort to meet the best international standards in terms of accommodation and other infrastructure," he said.
"Something went wrong for which I am sorry‚ but this was corrected this morning in consultation with the Sables management team. I can assure you that there was absolutely no intention to destabilise our opponents and we will make every possible effort to ensure they have a good preparation ahead of Saturday’s match."
The president of Rugby Africa, Abdelaziz Bougja, confirmed: "Our hosting agreements are signed by the six participating unions in the Rugby Africa Gold Cup and are very clear and strict in terms of accommodation standards.
"We rely on our unions to make sure the requirements are met and it is unfortunate that it seemed not to be the case with this hotel in Tunisia.
"However, Tunisia Rugby Union has our trust‚ they are long-term partners to Rugby Africa‚ hosting several matches and tournaments on our behalf every year. I know for a fact that hospitality matters to them and they have taken this issue very seriously and are rectifying it.
"Player welfare is at the heart of our preoccupations, so we are not taking this lightly," Bougja said.