Young rugby international Nathan Harris and his teammates were ready for an evening of cut-price drinks, scantily clad dancers and red carpet glamour when they turned up at one of Cape Town’s glitziest nightclubs a week ago.
Now, after having met a young woman there, Harris stands accused of rape, an accusation he steadfastly denies.
The Baby Black failed to show up for his Te Puke club game at the weekend, after acknowledging he was the player being investigated by the SAPS in connection with a complaint filed the day after his team’s loss to SA in the final of the IRB Junior World Championship.
Te Puke Sports and Recreation Club vice-president Graham Donald said: “We’ve thrown the ball into his court whether he turns up to play or not. He’s not allowed to say anything. Basically, his family’s looking after him.”
Harris was Te Puke Sports’ standout player this season and the only one from the Bay of Plenty to make the Baby Blacks and travel to SA for the tournament.
The team went on safari, made new friends and went hiking on Table Mountain.
But it was the way Harris partied after the tournament that got him in trouble for breaking team rules by having a woman in his room at the team’s Newlands hotel. And he could be in far greater trouble if the SAPS press rape charges.
Tiger Tiger markets itself as one of the most exclusive clubs in Cape Town, and has played host to SA cricket captain Graeme Smith, Britain’s Prince Harry and Hollywood stars. But on Friday, June 22, ladies’ night, it was not so exclusive. On that night, men paid a door fee while women entered free.
The club promised pole dancers, podium dancers, “bare butt butlers” and half-price cocktails.
A club employee, Charlene, said ladies’ night drew a big crowd of young women. Two minders had accompanied the Baby Blacks to the club. “There were two security guards that came from the hotel… they look after them and make sure everything’s going smoothly.”
The girl who later accused Harris of rape had met some rugby players earlier that night and someone told her what hotel room Harris was staying in. “It sounds like she pitched up at the hotel, separately. That’s what the staff are saying,” said Charlene.
Police had visited Tiger Tiger after the rape allegation was made.
“The cops came in at the beginning of the week to look through footage. They can’t find this girl,” Charlene said. “She was here, but how she left, I haven’t got a clue.”
Pinpointing the complainant on CCTV footage was difficult. “There’re so many girls,” Charlene said. “They can’t even tell us what she was wearing.”
But the Baby Blacks stood out. One reveller, Bronwyn Bruyns, tweeted afterwards: “They got smashed at Tiger Tiger last nyt!! (sic) They were everywhere, acting like they owned the place! Lol.”
Sun International hotel spokeswoman Priya Naidoo refused to explain how an apparently drunk woman with no reservation had been allowed into the guests’ section of the hotel.
A message on online sports forum thesilverfern.com said some of the Baby Blacks had returned to the hotel at 5am.
“A friend of mine was also at the hotel after they went clubbing with the boys. My friend went home and returned at about 7am. She says the boys were still up and they were packing their bags.”
The New Zealand Rugby Union said this week it did not believe players had been grossly intoxicated. But a Facebook post from one player suggests that many Baby Blacks were still hungover in Sydney more than 12 hours after they left Cape Town.
Jason Emery wrote: “No good how most of us travelled hungover, lol.”
Harris travelled with more than a hangover. He faced the prospect of a police investigation. – New Zealand Herald