Super Rugby

TV walkout: Probe extended, Ashwin yet to testify

Cape Town - Supposedly the central, aggrieved figure, Ashwin Willemse is believed to be yet to provide his version of affairs in the SuperSport studio walkout saga to the independent review.

It may go some way to explaining why the organisation, through communications chief Clinton van der Berg, told Sport24 on Thursday that completion of the process has been pushed out by a week - now to Monday, June 18.

It is understood that the inquiry, under the charge of advocate Vincent Maleka, has completed most - or all - of its other interviews with key figures into the much-publicised drama of almost three weeks ago.

But at least at the time of writing, the 19-cap Springbok wing and regular pundit was believed not to have presented his testimony.

Attempts to contact key figures in the controversy - Willemse, Nick Mallett and Naas Botha - have repeatedly been unsuccessful.

Willemse has been cutting it fine to appear: Sport24 has learnt that he was expected to do so before the end of the working week.

That would have made sense if the initial deadline promised by SuperSport for findings and recommendations - this Monday (June 11) - was to have been adhered to.

None of the high-profile trio of analysts have appeared again for studio roles subsequently, although they are not suspended and remain on normal remuneration.

That absence will apply, once again, to the keenly-awaited first Test between South Africa and England in Johannesburg on Saturday (and presumably also onward now to Bloemfontein next weekend).

SuperSport studio duties this weekend will be performed by Jean de Villiers, Joel Stransky, Owen Nkumane, Victor Matfield, Kobus Wiese and English guests and former internationals themselves Jeremy Guscott and Stuart Barnes.   

The inquiry was convened not long after the incident in the live rugby studio on May 19, when Springbok wing and regular pundit Willemse sensationally downed his microphone and walked out of post-match presentation on the Lions v Brumbies Super Rugby match.

He said on air that he “tired of being patronised” by fellow-Boks Mallett and Botha, “who played during the apartheid era”. Willemse also said he had endured being called a “quota player” for his entire career.

It has been learnt that many interviews have been conducted, right through the SuperSport pecking order, including pundits, producers and other levels of staff at the Randburg-based organisation.

SuperSport CEO Gideon Khobane was quoted as saying, soon after the flashpoint, that they were “positive this was not a racially-motivated issue”.

According to Sport24 information, no evidence of racially-angled conflict has been subsequently presented at the hearing.

Willemse’s only comment for public record since his walkout was to say: “The complexity of the issue is very profound.”

Van der Berg added on Thursday: “SuperSport cannot comment further on the matter while the process is underway; we shall only do so once Advocate Maleka lets us have his recommendations.

“(He) has advised us that he requires a week’s extension to complete his review. We expect that his report will be ready on June 18.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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