Ashwin Willemse's walkout during a live SuperSport broadcast, after lashing out at fellow presenters Nick Mallett and Naas Botha on air and saying he would not be "patronised by two individuals who played in the apartheid/segregated era", has SA rugby circles abuzz.
I worked with Ashwin very closely – it seems an unfortunate incident that has been taken out of context. I know Ashwin, and he wouldn't react like that because of nothing. Eugene 'Loffie' Eloff
HuffPost spoke to several former Boks and coaches to get their take on the incident.
Former Lions and SA U19 coach Eugene "Loffie" Eloff said: "I worked with Ashwin very closely, — it seems an unfortunate incident that has been taken out of context. I know Ashwin, and he wouldn't react like that because of nothing. I tried calling him and reaching out, but he is not picking up".
He added: "Nick and Naas are good people, and this whole incident is not good for SA rugby".
Coach Jimmy Stonehouse, director of rugby at the Pumas, said, "It was not a good thing for SA rugby — the whole country does not know what happened, and as a rugby fan, I would love for it to be resolved"
Former Springbok great and retired coach Ray Mordt said, "It is difficult for anyone to comment. I feel the incident happened on an inappropriate platform. It should have been done off-screen, and I hope it can be resolved".
On Monday, HuffPost interviewed Errol Tobias, who became South Africa's first black Springbok back in the 1980s. Tobias believes that SA rugby has a long way to go — he said it needs to relook at its approach to the game, and work hard to change the view of rugby being a "white sport".
"No player should be branded 'a quota player'. In my time, we had outstanding Boks, all of them quality players, as good as their white counterparts."
Although Tobias was quick to stress that during his time as a Bok player, he was treated with the greatest respect, he was nevertheless "stunned and shocked" by the events that unfolded on Saturday.
Went for coffee last week with #AshwinWillemse. He's not an emotional attention seeker who played the race card. He is professional, smart and one of the most intelligent & kind guys you'll meet. And when you are THAT, you dont entertain people who belittle you. 👏🏼 pic.twitter.com/rtVdzA2mqe— Marnus Broodryk (@marnusbroodryk) May 20, 2018
It was always going to happen on Live television. Ashwin Willemse i am so glad you finally put Nick Mallet and Naas Botha in their Place. @robertmarawa@Sbu_Mjikeliso@Couch_Krit@ntsabomluleki@ThabisoSithole@Veli_Mbuli#sonofthesoil 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥👏👏👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/mtLHDTAiq0— ThandoManana (@TandoManana) May 19, 2018
I do not know what led to #AshwinWillemse's walkout on @SupersportTV but I believe that this has been a long time coming; that he stood up for himself in a dignified manner; that there is nothing unprofessional about walking out when circumstances become untenable.— Doreen Morris (@DoreenMorris) May 19, 2018
Ashwin Willemse is an upstanding role model. People must not jump to conclusions before knowing why he reacted the way he did.— Tonderai Chavhanga (@tchavhanga) May 19, 2018