Eben Etzebeth: SA Rugby on the receiving end of blistering criticism

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander has been labelled a "disgrace" for the manner in which he handled the Eben Etzebeth saga.
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander has been labelled a "disgrace" for the manner in which he handled the Eben Etzebeth saga.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

National convenor of the Khoisan Defiance Campaign Sammy Claassen fired a scathing salvo at SA Rugby president Mark Alexander and said the rugby body handled the controversy around Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth poorly.

Etzebeth stands accused of assaulting and racially abusing a man outside a pub in Langebaan in the Western Cape on the eve of the naming of the Springbok Rugby World Cup-bound squad on August 26.

The player has been named in the Boks' match-day 23 for Friday's World Cup pool game against Italy in Shizuoka and SA Rugby released a statement on Thursday saying they were going to institute an internal probe into the issue.

SA Rugby's announcement came a day after the SA Human Rights Commission said it would "institute legal proceedings against Mr. Eben Etzebeth in the Equality Court" on Friday.

Claassen was not impressed with SA Rugby and labelled Alexander as a "disgrace" for allowing Etzebeth to board the plane to Japan.

“They refused to investigate‚ nor to listen to the complaints of the victims.

"They ignored the serious assault on black people in Langebaan and when we called on them not to include Etzebeth in the World Cup squad‚ they ignored us.

"The president is a disgrace‚” Claassen said.

“They were insensitive and now they're sitting with egg on their face."

SA Rugby spokesperson Andy Colquhoun‚ who's in Japan with the national team‚ referred TimesLIVE to the organisation's recent statement when asked to comment.

“While multiple processes are on-going‚ we think it's inappropriate to provide running commentary‚” Colquhoun said.

Claassen said SA Rugby were forced to act because of an ultimatum they sent to them and the way the SA Human Rughts Commission thoroughly investigated the matter.

Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth has denied any wrong doing, saying there a multiple people who can corroborate his version.
Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth has denied any wrong doing, saying there a multiple people who can corroborate his version.
Image: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

"They only moved now because last week‚ we gave them an ultimatum and that came from the community‚ telling them they have to do an internal investigation and not wait on the equality court or the National Prosecuting Authority case to proceed to the court.”

Claassen alleged that Etzebeth was not honest to his employers and his coach Johan “Rassie” Erasmus when asked to give his version of the incident.

"It was us telling them at the HRC in Cape Town last week that they've got five days to respond because we got frustrated by their lack of action‚ because they were protecting Eben and they believed his story‚" he said.

"When he spun his story‚ there was a case number opened against him at the Langebaan Police Station.

"There's a criminal investigation with a case number that was opened on August 25 when he chose to lie to SA Rugby and the community about there being no case. There is a case.”

When the Springbok Rugby World Cup squad was announced‚ Erasmus said he trusted Etzebeth.

"If there was any truth in it‚ it would have been a massive issue for us‚" he said at the time.

"Having heard Eben's side of the story‚ there's trust between a player and coach.

"We must trust him to do some stuff on the field and win Tests and he must trust me to believe him when he tells me something‚” Erasmus said.

“I'm pretty comfortable with what he's told me and you can't always believe what someone else says on social media.

"I'm comfortable with the fact that what was said on social media wasn't the truth.

"If anything like that happens and it happens to be the truth‚ a person like that wouldn't be part of our team and wouldn't go to the World Cup.”

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