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By Zelim Nel and Murray Williams
Eastern Cape rugby union president Cheeky Watson has denied that he made allegedly racial slurs against Springbok coach Peter de Villiers.
Press reports have alleged that at a recent meeting of the EP Legends, Watson described De Villiers as "a baboon who does not know what he is doing".
De Villiers, apparently regarding the comment as a racial insult, fired off a lawyer's letter to SA Rugby.
In the letter, De Villiers claimed Watson's alleged slur was the "worst type of defamation and racism".
"Given the fact that a member of our client's employer orchestrated this personal attack on our client, we are of the opinion that it is in everybody's best interests for SA Rugby to rectify the situation," the letter is reported to read.
SA Rugby confirmed on Tuesday morning that De Villiers had asked to be protected from Watson's comments.
De Villiers, who could not be contacted for comment, said he had been promised "a climate where he is protected from personal attacks and an environment in which he can give his best work in his position".
It is understood that SA Rugby's Andy Marinos met De Villiers and assured him of his employer's support.
SA Rugby subsequently investigated the matter, but had by Tuesday morning found no corroboration of the initial allegation that the comments were made.
And Watson himself on Tuesday denied the statements.
"I have absolutely nothing to explain," he told the Cape Argus.
"I fought for him (De Villiers) for that position (of Bok coach). I was in the front line of his campaign, and that hasn't changed."
Asked if he knew why De Villiers believed he had made the remarks, he said: "I have no earthly idea."
He said he had not contacted De Villiers, nor SA Rugby.
"It's so ludicrous. I haven't given it a moment's thought or a moment's time.
"The nature of my history and my past. I don't need to justify anything," Watson said.
He said he had full confidence that De Villiers would have the Springboks ready to secure a series win over the in-coming British and Irish Lions.