Super Rugby

REVEALED: What caused Willemse to walk off SuperSport set

Ashwin Willemse (Gallo Images)
Ashwin Willemse (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The relationship between former Springboks Ashwin Willemse and Nick Mallett has been strained for some time, a report indicates.

This follows the drama that occurred in the SuperSport studios on Saturday night when Willemse walked off a live broadcast following an apparent disagreement with fellow presenters Mallett and another former Springbok, Naas Botha.

Willemse spoke of being labelled a "quota player" and refused to be "patronised by two individuals who played in an apartheid/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".

It was unclear what had caused Willemse's outburst, but Afrikaans newspaper, Rapport, shed more light on the matter on Sunday.

A source with knowledge of what transpired in the studio told the weekly newspaper that Mallett, while off-air, had asked the television producer to give Willemse an opportunity to speak first following the Lions’ 42-24 win over the Brumbies in Johannesburg.

Mallett requested this as Willemse did not get a chance to speak following the earlier match between the Sharks and Chiefs in Durban.

The report further claimed Willemse interpreted this request as patronising - which led to his outburst.

A friend of Willemse also hit out at Botha and Mallett.

“Everyone talks about Botha and Mallett who make derogatory remarks about black and coloured players. They say just what they want and get away with it. Just think about it... now you’re standing there like Ashwin... I just think he got fed-up," the friend said.

Another source told the Afrikaans weekly that there's been bad blood between Willemse and Mallett for some years.

“It was virtually impossible to work with Ashwin in the last while. Often he would not even pitch up for work commitments and functions. He would confirm for a match only to pull out 10 minutes beforehand. He and Nick hardly talked to each other. Nick is however no saint. But I do feel sorry for Naas because I don’t think he has anything to do with it,” the source said.

Another source also confirmed that there was bad blood between Willemse and Mallett.

“They were very hostile towards each other. Ashwin has never done much preparation. Nick and Naas would do the hard work when it comes to preparation. They would identify and edit video clips which Ashwin would then discuss on the touch screen. He (Willemse) then gets all the credit.”

The source added that Mallett would often make playful jokes with Willemse.

“For example, Nick once burst a packet of chips behind Willemse. Nick was making a joke, but Ashwin didn’t see it that way.”

The source concluded by saying he never picked up a racial undertone when the jokes were made.

SuperSport, meanwhile, said they would investigate the incident.

“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,” the pay-channel announced in a statement.

READ: Sports minister calls for Mallett, Botha suspension over SuperSport walkout