- The South African-born player in the middle of the furore that saw Spain thrown out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup has spoken up for the first time
- Gavin van den Berg has proclaimed his innocents after it emerged that he had breached eligibility rules to play for Los Leones
- Spain would have been in Group B of the tournament, where van den Berg would have played against his fellow countrymen in the Springbok team
The South African-born player whose presence in Spain's team caused the country to be thrown out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France has finally spoken out.
Los Leones last qualified for the tournament in 1999, the only other time the minnow rugby nation made the game's biggest showpiece event. Like then, they would have taken on the might of the world champion Springboks at the next edition of the event.
As reported on SA Rugby Magazine, however, Spain were found guilty by an independent judicial committee for breaching player eligibility rules.
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Gavin van den Berg believed he had qualified on residency for Spain after completing a 36-month period in the country, and was capped by Spain against the Netherlands in 2021 and 2022.
However, it was discovered he had been out of the country for 127 days during his first year, and the 10 points that Spain earned in the two games he played were removed.
The discrepancy emerged when Romania, who have since replaced Spain at next year’s showpiece in France, gave World Rugby a photograph of Van den Berg at a wedding in SA in 2019 – two weeks before he had supposedly left Spain, according to the dates in his passport.
Van den Berg said in a statement:
“When they showed me the copy of my passport that Alcobendas Rugby Club had provided to FER [Spain’s rugby union], I saw that the dates of the exit stamps from Spain and the entry stamps in South Africa in 2019 did not match with the actual dates of my trip.”
As a result, he hasn’t been punished by World Rugby, but Spain have been found to be at fault for “not putting in place certain appropriate systems and in not properly implementing other systems which had been put in place” ahead of his selection.
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