‘Over­sight meant duo had to fly back for visas’ – Le­in­ster coach

Irish Independent - - NEWS - Ruaidhri O’Con­nor

LE­IN­STER coach Leo Cullen lamented the “over­sight” that meant two New Zealand play­ers were turned away at im­mi­gra­tion on ar­rival in South Africa.

Isa Nacewa and Jami­son Gib­son-Park were trav­el­ling with the squad for two fix­tures in the new PRO14 com­pe­ti­tion, which in­cludes South African teams for the first time.

But they were turned away at im­mi­gra­tion in Jo­han­nes­burg as a re­sult of not hav­ing the cor­rect visas – and had to spend hours wait­ing in the air­port be­fore their long re­turn flight to Dublin.

Speak­ing at the Nelson Man­dela Bay Sta­dium in Port El­iz­a­beth yes­ter­day, the coach said: “From our end, it’s all new trav­el­ling to South Africa with a group so the lo­gis­tics around that – the is­sue from us is that we hadn’t ap­plied for the visa, we got on our flight, landed in Jo­han­nes­burg, the two play­ers who were both trav­el­ling on New Zealand pass­ports, it was dis­cov­ered then.”

The rules changed af­ter the New Zealand gov­ern­ment re­cently with­drew a visa waiver, claim­ing some South Africans were ex­ploit­ing the agree­ment to visit fam­ily and friends and then over­stay­ing the three- month limit. Cullen added that both play­ers had trav­elled to South Africa in the past.

“Isa Nacewa and Jami­son Gib­son-Park had trav­elled with Su­per Rugby teams in the past and not needed visas. They’d been asked about that, but it changed re­cently, it’s an over­sight on our part.

“The play­ers have trav­elled back to Ire­land, got the visas sorted and they’re ready to travel back out and will meet back up with us on Sun­day when we get back to Cape Town.

“They’ll be back in­volved and ready for prepa­ra­tions for next week’s game.”

Cullen con­firmed that nei­ther player was in line to start to­day’s game and said dis­rup­tion to team prepa­ra­tions was kept to a min­i­mum.

“It didn’t re­ally af­fect the group. At the air­port, the group just moved on off to the ho­tel and started our prepa­ra­tions.

“For (di­rec­tor of rugby op­er­a­tions) Guy (Easterby) and (op­er­a­tions man­ager) Ro­nan (O’Don­nell), they stayed with the lads and tried to get it sorted.

“The rest of the lads were in re­cov­ery mode from the flight, get­ting set­tled in Jo’burg and go­ing about our nor­mal busi­ness.”

Le­in­ster’s Barry Daly trains at Nelson Man­dela Bay Sta­dium in Port El­iz­a­beth, South Africa, yes­ter­day. Photo: Sportsfile

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