ASHWIN WILLEMSE SAGA
Winds of change have yet to shake off the dead leaves of rugby racism
Former Springbok’s walkout from live television broadcast was not the act of a person with a victim mentality
The first version of Ashwin Willemse’s 2015 autobiography, Rugby Changed My World, opened with extensive references to growing up on the wrong side of apartheid. Then he instructed the writing team to remove it: the facts of his life story needed to stay, but the tone had to change. In brief it tells the story of a life started as a poor coloured child in the dusty streets of an agricultural town, born of a single mother and sleeping in a shack in his grandmother’s back yard, a property shared with 10 family members. But he didn’t regard himself or want to be portrayed as an apartheid victim in search of sympathy; he wanted his story of becoming a most unlikely Springbok told to inspire others. So when Willemse walked off the set of a live SuperSport television broadcast — in view of thousands of rugby lovers, complaining of being "patronised" by fellow panellists Nick Mallett and Naas Botha — it was not an act performed by someone suffering from a victim mentality. Rather, it was h...