The Saru Sacos Legends have thrown their support behind Ashwin Willemse after his walkout during a live SuperSport broadcast.
Willemse walked off during a live broadcast on Saturday night following an apparent disagreement with fellow analysts Nick Mallett and Naas Botha.
The former Bok winger spoke of being labelled a ‘quota player’ and refused to be ‘patronised by two individuals who played in an apartheid/segregated era’.
He 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’.
The Saru Sacos Legends, who was a non-racial governing body during apartheid, released a press statement on Monday in which it strongly supports Willemse.
‘Our organisation wish to emphasise that the issue which Ashwin Willemse conveyed on SuperSport during a live broadcast has been something we have been agitating for quite some time. We have not only noticed the complete lack of progress and benefits in rugby for those from the disadvantaged communities but also the hackneyed commentary from scribes and commentators from the previous apartheid order
‘We have always been magnanimous in giving them the benefit of the doubt and hoped upon hope that they would see their way clear in righting the wrongs of the past, but alas it is not so, as they glibly call on us ‘to move on’ and forget the past injustices. They do not wish to see evidence of the hurt and pain they have caused us over so many centuries, rather wishing to belittle us and adopting a patronising approach
‘The incident on SuperSport where Nick Mallett and Naas Botha have been party to in their handling of Ashwin and especially their constant negative comments of players of colour is so evident and indicative of this malaise. The attitude and sheer smugness of Naas and Nick are still characteristic of and steeped in a mentality of superiority, old apartheid-style aloofness bordering on a “baas en kneg” relationship against those with a darker hue.
‘We have been privy to numerous occasions where these two gentlemen and a host of others as well, flout their Springbok colours as the ultimate badge of superior intellect on everything rugby from coaching, commentating, writing etc.
‘They convey their comments in a subtle nuanced, latent and covert racist manner in running down players of colour, vying for a Springbok place, while similarly talking up the abilities of their former colleagues and teammates’ offspring. They regard the Springbok as sacrosanct, only befitting those they believe have hereditary claims to it despite their forefathers’ apartheid baggage. They now use the sacrifices of our non-racial fold to blow their own dubious past while castigating our own offspring who are still devoid of their rightful access to resources in order to enhance their rugby prowess and skills.’
The organisation lauded Willemse for standing up against Mallett and Botha.
‘What Ashwin has done in bringing this into the public domain in the way he did was thus long in the making when he simply verbalised the utter frustrations of our continued marginalisation. He conducted himself with aplomb, in a cool and calm demeanour and hoodwinked his co-presenters who usually spew their vitriol about quotas and tokenism behind closed doors and off screen. He took the wind out of their sails with this action … this was a masterstroke … no rather a stroke of genius. He has in one fell swoop brought the denigration of players of colour into the public domain and smack bang into the international arena. Ashwin’s action is also a blight on those in rugby’s officialdom, some from our former non-racial stable, who continue to be acquiescent in ensuring this state of affairs is perpetuated under their tenure. They are rather taken in by the lure of individual benefits at the expense of their erstwhile comrades.
‘Ashwin has personified the underlying reasons for the existence of the Saru Sacos Legends, a body whose aims are to eradicate our country of its fascist racist legacy which continues to exclude the majority rugby playing South Africans and its history. He will now receive the vile and extreme vitriol from those die-hard racists on social media but let them be forewarned that this will be taken up by our organisation and allow them to experience their “Penny Sparrow” moment should they dare such utterances. We wish to convey our unequivocal support to Ashwin for his bold action for this should be the rallying call for all of us who fought hard and long for a country based on justice and equality for all.’