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Dublin: -1°C Sunday 6 December 2020

Zimbabwe players sleep on the streets ahead of Rugby World Cup qualifier

Photographs showed players lying on a pavement wearing blankets and surrounded by their luggage.

ZIMBABWE’S NATIONAL RUGBY team slept on the streets in Tunisia after being offered accommodation in a “disgusting” hotel before a World Cup qualifier match, a former sports minister said today.

Photographs showed players lying on a pavement wearing blankets and surrounded by their luggage ahead of the Africa Gold Cup match against Tunisia in Monastir on Saturday.

RUGBYU-ZIM-GOLD-CUP-2018 Zimbabwe are coached by former South Africa boss Peter de Villiers. Source: AFP/Getty Images

“Our national rugby team the Sables are being treated in the most appalling way in Tunisia,” former sports minister David Coltart posted on his Facebook account. “They have been forced to sleep on the streets as the accommodation they were provided with is disgusting.”

As Zimbabwe sports fans expressed their shock over the pictures, the Rugby Africa governing body apologised for the team’s treatment.

“Rugby Africa and Tunisia Rugby Union would like to express their sincere apologies to the Sables team and management for this unfortunate situation,” it said in a statement. “This does not reflect the standards of the Rugby Africa Gold Cup competition.”

Khaled Babbou, of Tunisia Rugby, denied the hotel standard was a tactic to win the game.

“Something went wrong for which I am sorry, but this was corrected this morning,” he said. “I can assure you that there was absolutely no intention to destabilise our opponents.”

Coltart called on Zimbabwean rugby authorities to assist the team, adding that players had been held up at customs for six hours as they did not have money to pay for visas.

TOPSHOT-RUGBYU-KEN-ZIM Zimbabwe's Brandon Mandivenga gets a pass away during last Saturday's defeat to Kenya. Source: AFP/Getty Images

The winner of the Africa Gold Cup tournament will qualify for the World Cup in Japan in 2019. The Sables lost to Kenya 45-36 last weekend in Nairobi.

The Zimbabwe Rugby Union was not immediately available to comment.

© – AFP, 2018

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