The SA-born player at the centre of Spain’s Rugby World Cup 2023 expulsion says he was unaware his travel documents had been tampered with by his club.
Spain had booked their place at the World Cup for just the second time in their history, and would’ve faced the world champion Springboks in Pool B.
However, Spain were found guilty by an independent judicial committee for breaching player eligibility rules.
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.
“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,” Van den Berg explained in a declaration.
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.