The Baby Blacks got more than they bargained for at a club with celebrity clients, reports John Weekes.
Young rugby international Nathan Harris and his teammates were ready for an evening of cheap drink, scantily clad dancers and red carpet glamour when they turned up to one of Cape Town's glitziest nightclubs last weekend.
Instead, after meeting a young woman there, Harris stands accused of rape, an accusation he steadfastly denies.
The Baby Black failed to show for his Te Puke club game yesterday, after admitting he was the player being investigated by South African police over a complaint made after the IRB Junior World Championship.
Te Puke Sports and Recreation Club vice-president Graham Donald said: "We've thrown the ball into his court whether he turns up to play or not. He's not allowed to say anything. Basically his family's looking after him." In the end, he did not show.
Harris was Te Puke Sports' stand-out player this season, and the only one from the Bay of Plenty to make the Baby Blacks and travel to the tournament in South Africa.
The team enjoyed a big week. They went on safari, made new friends and enjoyed a hike on Table Mountain.
"What an amazing journey," wrote one player, Jason Emery, on Facebook.
But it was the way Harris partied after the tournament that has got him in trouble for breaking team rules by having a woman in his room. And he could be in far greater trouble if South African police press rape charges.
Tiger Tiger markets itself as one of the most exclusive clubs in town, playing host to South African cricket captain Graeme Smith, Prince Harry and Hollywood stars.
But on Friday, Ladies' Night, it was not so exclusive: on that night, men paid a door fee while women entered free of charge.
The club promised pole dancers, podium dancers and "bare butt butlers". The half-price cocktails were another reason the place was so popular.
A club employee, Charlene, told the Herald on Sunday that Ladies' Night drew a big crowd of young women.
Charlene said two minders accompanied the Baby Blacks to the club. "There were two security guards, that came from the hotel ... they look after them and make sure everything's going smoothly."
The girl who later accused Harris of rape had met some rugby players earlier that night, and someone told her what hotel room Harris was staying in.
"It sounds like she pitched up at the hotel, separately. That's what the staff are saying," said Charlene.
"She definitely chatted to them at some point in the night. It sounds like she knows what room they were in and everything."
This week, bar staff told of a low-key police investigation.
Charlene said police visited Tiger Tiger after the rape allegation was made. "The cops came in at the beginning of the week to look through footage.
"They can't even find this girl. She was here ... but how she left, I haven't got a clue."
Pinpointing the complainant with the CCTV footage was difficult. "There's so many girls," she said. "They can't even tell us what she was wearing." But the Baby Blacks stood out. One reveller, Bronwyn Bruyns, tweeted afterwards, "They got smashed at Tiger Tiger last nyt!! They were everywhere, acting like they owned the place! Lol."
Sun International hotel spokeswoman Priya Naidoo refused to explain how an apparently drunk woman with no reservation was allowed into the hotel.
A message on online sports forum Thesilverfern.com said some of the Baby Blacks got back to the Newlands hotel at 5am.
"A friend of mine was also at the hotel after they went clubbing with the boys. My friends went home and returned at about 7am. She says the boys were still up and they were packing their bags."
The NZRU said this week it did not believe players were grossly intoxicated. But a Facebook post from one player suggests many Baby Blacks were still hungover in Sydney more than 12 hours after they left Cape Town.
Jason Emery wrote: "No good how most of us travelled hungover lol."
Harris travelled with more than a hangover. He faced the prospect of a police investigation.