TUNIS – The Tunisian Rugby Federation on Wednesday criticised the Zimbabwean national team for unsporting behaviour after they slept on the street in protest at the hotel in which they were put up.
Zimbabwe's Sables are set to play Tunisia on Saturday in Beja, 100km west of Tunis, as part of the qualification process for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
On Tuesday former sports minister David Coltart said Zimbabwe's players slept on the streets in Tunisia after being offered accommodation at a “disgusting” hotel.
Photographs showed players lying on a pavement wearing blankets and surrounded by their luggage.
The Tunisian rugby authorities hit back in a statement issued on Wednesday.
“The Tunisian rugby union strongly deplores the anti-sports and unethical actions of the Zimbabwean delegation,” the Tunisians said.
“The delegation of Zimbabwe started complaining as soon as they arrived” when the head of the delegation refused to pay the 20 euros per person for entry visas at Tunis airport.
The Tunisians said this resulted in a four-hour delay at the airport on Monday before the head of the delegation was eventually convinced by the chief of Rugby Africa to pay the fees.
After the Zimbabweans arrived at the hotel in the city of Beja, the delegation head “expressed reservations about the state of the bathroom in one of the rooms, the lack of a swimming pool and the low internet speed”, the Tunisians said.
In protest, the head of the delegation then led the team outside to sleep on the street until dawn when they were transferred to a more prestigious hotel 40 kilometres away.
“The Tunisian Rugby Union expresses its deep regret for this unfortunate event and strongly deplores the anti-sports and unethical actions of the Zimbabwean delegation,” said the statement.
“It confirms through this press release that Tunisia is, and will always be, a country of hospitality, always proven and that will make its pride.”
Coached by South Africa's Peter de Villiers, Zimbabwe lost last weekend to Kenya in Nairobi (45-36) and currently sit third of the six countries competing in qualifiers.
The Zimbabwean official who criticised Tunisia's treatment of the Sables also hit out at the lack of funding for the team.
The Tunisian rugby federation also has limited financial means.
Its players will sleep in a two-star hotel next to the one the Zimbabweans complained about, said technical director Samir Ben Magtouf, who stressed there was no difference in the way they were being treated.
However, their hotel does get a few more favourable reviews online than the one the Zimbabweans slept outside of.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)