Super Rugby

Sport minister calls for Mallett, Naas' suspension over SuperSport walk-off

Cape Town - Minister of Sport and Recreation Tokozile Xasa has responded to the drama that unfolded live on-air in the SuperSport studio on Saturday evening.

WATCH: Ashwin Willemse walks off SuperSport set after disagreement with Nick Mallett and Naas Botha

In sensational scenes, Ashwin Willemse walked off set following an apparent disagreement with co-presenters Nick Mallett and Naas Botha.

“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 quota system to normalize an otherwise abnormal system," said Xasa.

"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, (Bryan) Habana and (Siya) Kolisi continue to make us proud as a nation and affirm that they are not token players or quota players.” Xasa said.

The statement continued:

The department of Sport & Recreation through its transformation charter that was adopted in 2011 noted that quota system has been largely unsuccessful in bringing about an effectively transformed sport system and is causing substantial consequential damage for many black players who were labelled as ‘tokens’, and referred to as mere replacement of white face with a black face.

“It is clear that Ashwin Willemse was referred as a quota player by his fellow panelists despite his many successes in the field of play, I call upon SuperSport to suspend the two panelists while they are busy with full investigation.

The continued appearance of Mallet and Botha will be seen as an endorsement of their alleged racist behaviour,” Xasa said.

Xasa called upon all South Africans to continue to use sport to unite, create social cohesion and build our nation. Racist elements must be exposed and isolated the statement concluded. 

SuperSport posted a tweet following the incident confirming they are "aware of the on-air incident" and are "looking into the matter".

Later on Saturday evening, SuperSport issued a second tweet stating that they view the incident "in a serious light" and will "conduct a full investigation and interview all relevant individuals".

While it remains unclear at this stage what led to Willemse's obvious unhappiness, the former Lions and Springbok wing said: “I’ve been in the game for a long time like most of us here. 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.”

Willemse went on to say he "can't work with people who undermine other people" and that he was "glad it happened on live TV so that people can see".

The former wing, 36, played for the Springboks between 2003 and 2007, scoring five tries in 19 appearances.

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