Ashwin Willemse walkout sets wheels in motion at SuperSport
Broadcaster says it takes Willemse walkout seriously and will ‘take appropriate action to remedy the situation’
The investigation into events around SuperSport rugby analyst Ashwin Willemse’s stunning walkout live on air on Saturday night is still at a preliminary stage‚ the broadcaster says.
Willemse‚ a Springbok wing who played 19 Tests and was a member of the 2007 World Cup-winning squad‚ said on air he "can’t work with people who undermine other people".
The incident has left SuperSport reeling after Minister of Sport and Recreation Tokozile Xasa issued a statement of support for Willemse on Sunday before the broadcaster had a chance to investigate the incident. "This behaviour of entitlement by some white South Africans who continue to think that their whiteness represents better must come to an end‚" Xasa said.
"If it was not for a barbaric, nonsensical apartheid system that privileged them, we could not have implemented [a] quota system to normalise an otherwise abnormal system.
"Willemse is not just a former Springbok player, but in 2003 he was named South African rugby player of the year‚ young player of the year and the players’ player of the year.
"Players like Willemse‚ [Bryan] Habana and [Siya] Kolisi continue to make us proud as a nation and affirm that they are not token players or quota players," the sports minister said.
SuperSport confirmed the investigation‚ but had few details. "SuperSport has noted with concern the events that saw presenter Ashwin Willemse walk out of the SuperSport studio on Saturday evening‚" its statement read.
"A preliminary investigation is under way and will include senior management meeting with all the presenters [Willemse‚ Nick Mallett‚ Naas Botha and Motshidisi Mohono] and the production staff in Johannesburg. SuperSport acknowledges the comments from the minister of sport and recreation and will engage with her office in this regard."
Calvo Mawela‚ CEO of MultiChoice SA‚ the parent company of SuperSport, said: "SuperSport has taken note of the strong public sentiment and we take this matter seriously.
"Whatever the findings‚ appropriate action will be taken to remedy the situation. Prejudice of any sort will not be tolerated by SuperSport. SuperSport will keep the public and media informed of the investigation."
In a stunning monologue following a commercial break after the Lions versus Brumbies Super Rugby match‚ Willemse let fly at his co-hosts, former Springboks Mallett and Botha.
"I’ve been in the game for a long time like most of us here‚" Willemse said. "As a player‚ I’ve been called a quota for a long time and I’ve worked very hard to earn the respect I have now.
"I’m not going to sit here and be patronised by these two individuals [Mallett and Botha] who played their rugby during the apartheid era‚ a segregated era."
SA Rugby weighed in on the issue with a short statement: "We were as surprised and concerned as the rest of the rugby community by Saturday evening’s incident on SuperSport.
"It would not be fair to make snap judgments. However‚ something was clearly amiss and it reflected poorly on rugby.
"This is a SuperSport matter and we have asked to be kept informed on the process of the investigation."