In Brief

Zimbabwe rugby team sleeps on the streets before World Cup qualifier

Squad refused to check in to ‘cockroach-infested’ hotel ahead of clash in Tunisia

Zimbabwe’s rugby union team were photographed sleeping on the street in Tunisia, days before a Rugby World Cup qualifier, to protest against their “cockroach-infested” hotel.

The national side, nicknamed the Sables, touched down in the city of Beja on Monday ahead of a Rugby Africa Gold Cup clash with Tunisia this Saturday. The cup winner automatically wins a place at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

However, when they arrived at their arranged accommodation, the team found “what was said to be a cockroach-infested hotel”, says African news network eNCA.

A photo uploaded to social media allegedly taken inside the hotel shows a bathroom with broken fittings and debris scattered on the floor.

Rather than check in, players “instead opted to sleep on the streets in response to the appalling conditions”, eNCA reports. Images of the squad lying along the pavement under their jackets quickly went viral: 

Sables flanker Takudzwa Mandiwanza told Harare-based radio station Capitalk FM that the trip had been a “shambles” even before the accommodation troubles, South African news site Times Live reports.

On arrival in Tunisia, he said, the team was “detained at the airport for close to six hours”.

He did not respond to speculation that the squad had been held because they were unable to pay visa fees, but did complain that players had not received match fees or promised meal allowances from their last cup fixture, in Kenya.

The squad’s coach, former Springboks star Peter de Villiers, reportedly bought the players food and drink with his own money after the team’s funds ran out.

If it wasn’t for De Villiers, “we’d be hungry right now”, Mandiwanza said. “The situation is very frustrating and disheartening”.

On Tuesday, governing body Rugby Africa said that the team had now been found acceptable alternative accommodation in Beja.

Khaled Babbou, an executive member of Rugby Africa and Tunisia Rugby Union, apologised for the team’s experience. 

“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,” he added.

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