The Minister of Sport and Recreation, Tokozile Xasa, has called on SuperSport to suspend Nick Mallett and Naas Botha after the incident that led to Ashwin Willemse walking off set during a live broadcast on Saturday night.
Former Springbok wing Willemse said on air that he was “not going to be patronised by two individuals who played in apartheid”, referring to Mallett and Botha, who were Springboks in the 1980s.
“You see, I think it’s important for me because you know, I’ve played this game for a long time, like all of us here,” Willemse said.
“And as a player, I was labelled a quota player for a long time. I worked hard to earn my own respect in this game.
“So, I’m not going to be patronised by two individuals who played in apartheid – a segregated era – and come and want to undermine…
“So, I think for me, I’ve had my fair share. I can’t work with people that undermine other people. And you can sit and you can laugh about it (I’m not laughing about it, says Mallett), but you know exactly what happened.
“And it’s fine, it’s fine. I don’t mind being ridiculous. I’m glad it happens on air so that people can see, because you two sit here – no, it’s fine.”
While it’s not exactly clear what was said initially that angered Willemse, an earlier video clip posted on social media showed him asking Botha and then Mallett to analyse the Lions-Brumbies game, after being asked for his views by presenter Motshidisi Mohono.
“Naas, what do you think about it? Do you think it was a good game?” Willemse said, to which Botha responded, laughing: “I used all the time before the game, it’s all your time.”
Willemse added: “I think we are not going to patronise each other here, so I think Nick, maybe you want to have your view on the game… Please go for it, I want to keep the order here.”
Mallett replied “I will do” while smiling, and proceeded to speak about the game.
Xasa said in a statement on Sunday that she was “shocked by the alleged behaviour of rugby analysts at the SuperSport studios”.
“This behaviour of entitlement by some white South Africans who continue to think that their whiteness represent better must come to an end. 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,” Xasa said.
“Willemse is not just a former Springbok player, but in 2003, he was named SA Rugby Player of the Year, young player of the year and the player’s player of the year. Players like Willemse, Habana, Kolisi continue to make us proud as a nation, and affirm that they are not token players or quota players.
“It is clear that Ashwin Willemse was referred as a quota player by his fellow panellists despite his many successes in the field of play.
“I call upon SuperSport to suspend the two panellists while they are busy with full investigation. The continued appearance of Mallett and Botha will be seen as an endorsement of their alleged racist behaviour.”
Willemse has yet to respond to requests for comment, while SuperSport said on Twitter on Saturday night: “SuperSport is aware of the on-air incident and is looking into the matter. SuperSport views this incident in a serious light - we will conduct a full investigation and interview all relevant individuals.”