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Tunisia Rugby Union apologises, denies attempting to destabilise Zimbabwe

Independent Online (IOL) logo Independent Online (IOL) 7/3/2018 Liam Moses
a group of people lying on the ground: The Zimbabwe rugby team were forced to sleep in the streets of Tunis, Tunisia. Photo: David Coltart/Facebook. © Provided by Provided by Independent Media The Zimbabwe rugby team were forced to sleep in the streets of Tunis, Tunisia. Photo: David Coltart/Facebook.

CAPE TOWN - Rugby Africa and the Tunisia Rugby Union have apologised to Zimbabwe's national team, the Sables, after they were forced to sleep on the streets of Tunis on Monday night.

The Sables are in Tunis to face the hosts in a Rugby Africa Gold Cup match, the tournament which will decide Africa's participants at next year's Rugby World Cup. However, they found their accommodation to unsuitable when they arrived on Monday and were forced to sleep on the pavement. 

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The Sables' situation came to light on Tuesday morning when former Zimbabwe sports minister, David Coltart, shared pictures of their night on the streets on his Facebook page. Khaled Babbou, executive member of Rugby Africa, apologised on behalf of the hosts and said the Sables have now been provided with alternative accommodation.

“I apologise on behalf of Tunisia Rugby Union," Babbou said in a Rugby Arica press release on Tuesday. "We pride ourselves in hosting Rugby Africa tournaments every year and make every effort to meet the best international standards in terms of accommodation and other infrastructure. 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.”

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Abdelaziz Bougja, President of Rugby Africa, says the first hotel provided to the Sables did not meet the accommodation standards outlined in the hosting agreement which was signed by the six participating unions in the Gold Cup. "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," he said.

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"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.  We wish both teams the best for Saturday’s game. The Gold Cup has been a huge success so far, helping to raise standards of African rugby, and popularity of the Game, we would like to thank the six teams, six hosting unions, ministries of sports, our broadcaster Kwese Sports and all our partners and sponsors for their support and assistance.”

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