Boks get new World Cup opponent
NEWS: Spain have been thrown out of the 2023 World Cup in France after a disciplinary hearing found that they had played an ineligible player in two recent qualifications games.
South African prop Gavin van den Berg had been attached to the Alcobendas club in Spain and he came off the bench in the February Rugby Europe Championship win over the Netherlands.
He had debuted against the Dutch two months earlier, scoring a try as a replacement in another Rugby Europe Championship.
However, after Spain went on to clinch qualification for the finals with a win over Portugal in March to set up pool games in France next year versus Ireland, South Africa, Scotland and another qualifier, an eligibility investigation was launched.
The Spanish rugby federation have now reported they have been fined and deducted ten match points, leaving them finishing much further down the Rugby Europe Championship table and out of the World Cup qualification positions.
A statement on the Spanish federation’s website read: “After the oral hearing held this Thursday, April 28, with the independent judicial committee appointed by World Rugby to study the claim of the Romanian Rugby Federation (FRR) on the eligibility of Gavin van den Berg, the highest body in world rugby has decided to penalise Spain with a £25,000 fine and deduct five points for each of the two games in which this player lined out.
“While waiting for World Rugby to make the ruling official, this decision means disqualification from the 2023 World Cup in France, a competition for which the XV del León had qualified directly by finishing second in the Rugby Europe Championship 2021-2022.
“As this very harsh sanction occurs as a result of an alleged forgery of the aforementioned player’s passport, the Spanish Rugby Federation (FER) continues with the extraordinary disciplinary procedure initiated at the time and will shortly call a press conference to offer all the explanations that are required.”
According to Spanish inline media outlet the Olive Press, Van den Berg was considered not eligible as he did not complete the requirements of three years consecutive residency in Spain, having returned to South Africa for longer than allowed under regulation 8.
Van der Berg arrived in Spain in 2018 and had to live there for three years to qualify for Spain residency before his debut on December 19.
However he reportedly returned to South Africa for four months in 2019 and went back there again during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Regulation 8 requires players to remain in the country for 10 months per year to qualify for the residency rule.
Further complicating the issue is that Van den Berg and his Spanish club, Alcobendas, reportedly provided false documentation and were cleared to play by both the Spanish Rugby Federation (FER) and World Cup.
The FER proposed that Van den Berg and the club be sanctioned with a respective rejection of his visa and relegation of the club, but World Rugby was strict over the breach of regulation 8.
It is the second time that Spain has been kicked out of a World Cup qualification, having been sanctioned for the same offence in 2019.
Spain, who were due to kick off their World Cup pool schedule in Bordeaux versus the Irish and the Springboks before moving onto Lille to play their other two matches, will now be replaced by Romania in World Cup Pool A.
Source: Rugbypass & The Olive Press