Saturday 23 September 2017

Leinster admit error as Kiwi duo are denied entry to South Africa

Nacewa and Gibson-Park fly back from South Africa over visa error

Isa Nacewa and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park were denied entry to the country and forced to return to Europe.
Isa Nacewa and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park were denied entry to the country and forced to return to Europe.
Leinster captain Isa Nacewa. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Leinster's mini-tour of South Africa got off to the worst possible start last night when captain Isa Nacewa and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park were denied entry to the country and forced to return to Europe.

The New Zealanders travelled with the rest of the 28-man squad as far as Johannesburg's OR Tambo Airport, but did not have the requisite visas to get through immigration. They spent the day at the airport as Leinster officials tried to find a solution, but ultimately had to fly home.

Scrum-half Nick McCarthy has been called up as cover for Gibson-Park for the Guinness PRO14 games against the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs, while Nacewa's absence will be covered by the players who travelled.

Leinster were caught short by a change in the immigration arrangements between South Africa and New Zealand that came into effect in January. Prior to that amendment, New Zealanders did not need a visa to gain entry to the Rainbow Nation but that agreement ended earlier this year and the province were unaware of the need to obtain visas for their Kiwi players.

"As of January 16 a visa is required for New Zealand nationals entering South Africa," Leinster head of operations Guy Easterby said in a statement released by the Irish province.

"Unfortunately this visa was not applied for by Leinster on behalf of Jamison Gibson-Park and Isa Nacewa in advance of the squad leaving Dublin Airport on Tuesday afternoon.

Leinster's Jamison Gibson-Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Leinster's Jamison Gibson-Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"It was only brought to our attention upon landing into Johannesburg on Wednesday morning that this was now a requirement.

"This was clearly an administrative oversight on our part and a valuable lesson has been learned.

"Nick McCarthy will join the squad and for the moment no other player will be called up."

Along with Italian side Zebre whose squad all made it into South Africa, Leinster are the first PRO14 side to make the trip to South Africa and have been under pressure to get the logistics of their tour together at short notice.

They stayed in Johannesburg last night and will train there this morning before travelling to Port Elizabeth for their clash with the Kings.

Already without his 2017 Lions, Ireland players Dan Leavy, Garry Ringrose, Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip and fathers-to-be Scott Fardy and Devin Toner, Leo Cullen must now adjust his plans accordingly with just one full session before the opening game and without his two players who have Super Rugby experience.

Rhys Ruddock is expected to captain the side in Nacewa's absence and he is confident the squad can cope.

"It's not something we could prepare for and no one had thought of that so it's obviously disappointing to lose some of the guys we brought over and their experience," the flanker said.

"But there's enough to do the job and we're confident in the group that we have."

Irish Independent

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