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SuperSport confirm investigation into Ashwin Willemse walk-out underway

Former Springbok Ashwin Willemse during day 1 of the SARU Coaching Indaba held at the Southern Sun Newlands, CAPE TOWN, 19 October 2016.
Former Springbok Ashwin Willemse during day 1 of the SARU Coaching Indaba held at the Southern Sun Newlands, CAPE TOWN, 19 October 2016.
Image: Luigi Bennett/BackpagePix

The investigation into events around SuperSport rugby analyst Ashwin Willemse’s stunning walkout live on air on Saturday night‚ are still at a preliminary stage according to the broadcaster on Monday.

Willemse‚ a former Springbok wing who played 19 Tests and was a member of the 2007 World Cup winning squad‚ claimed he: “can't work with people who undermine other people."

The incident has left SuperSport reeling after the Minister of Sports and Recreation Thokozile Xasa issued a statement of support for Willemse on Sunday before the company had a chance to investigate the incident.

“This behaviour of entitlement by some white South Africans who continue to think that their whiteness represents better must come to an end‚” Sports Minister Thokozile Xasa said in a statement.

“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.

“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.”

SuperSport confirmed the investigation‚ but had few details.

“SuperSport has noted with concern the events that saw presenter Ashwin Willemse walk out of the SuperSport studio on Saturday evening‚” the statement read.

“A preliminary investigation is underway and will include senior management meeting with all the presenters (Ashwin Willemse‚ Nick Mallett‚ Naas Botha and Motshidisi Mohono) and the production staff in Johannesburg today.

“SuperSport acknowledges the comments from the Ministry of Sport and Recreation and will engage with Minister of Sport and Recreation Thokozile Xasa’s office in this regard.

Said Calvo Mawela‚ CEO: Multichoice SA‚ the parent company of SuperSport: "SuperSport has taken note of the strong public sentiment and we take this matter seriously.

"Whatever the findings‚ appropriate action will be taken to remedy the situation.

“Prejudice of any sort will not be tolerated by SuperSport.

“SuperSport will keep the public and media informed of the investigation.”

In a stunning monologue following a commercial break after the Lions versus Brumbies Super Rugby match‚ Willemse let fly at co-hosts Nick Mallett and Naas Botha.

“I’ve been in the game for a long time like most of us here‚” Willemse said.

“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.”

SA Rugby weighed in on the issue with a short statement: “We were as surprised and concerned as the rest of the rugby community by Saturday evening’s incident on SuperSport.

“It would not be fair to make snap judgements.

"However‚ something was clearly amiss and it reflected poorly on rugby.

"This is a SuperSport matter and we have asked to be kept informed on the process of the investigation.”

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