Super Rugby rants and raves: Ashwin Willemse should be applauded

Former Springbok Ashwin Willemse (centre) walked out of the SuperSport studion in protest during a live broadcast on Saturday. Photo: Luigi Bennett/BackpagePix

Former Springbok Ashwin Willemse (centre) walked out of the SuperSport studion in protest during a live broadcast on Saturday. Photo: Luigi Bennett/BackpagePix

Published May 21, 2018


CAPE TOWN - Ashwin Willemse's walk-out, and the continued use of the "quota" label on social media are two of the topics tackled after round 14 of Super Rugby.


1. Ashwin Willemse simply wants to be treated with the dignity of an equal and a colleague. His belief is that his worth as a rugby analyst on SuperSport has constantly been undermined because of the colour of his skin. Here is a former Springbok, who at his peak, was South Africa’s Player of the Year and also the Players' Player of the Year in 2003. He is a 2002 Under-21 World Championship and 2007 World Cup winner, yet the most telling moment was Willemse saying he had battled the tag of a "quota player" as a Bok and was not prepared to be subjected to it as a professional rugby analyst. The former wing's protest is in the subtle and overt prejudices he has faced in a studio environment over a sustained period of time. His stance is to be applauded as a catalyst for change; not further belittled through ridicule.

READ MORE: Ashwin Willemse wanted to be treated fairly and equally, says Gio Aplon

2. Stormers wing/fullback Dillyn Leyds reminded Bok coach Rassie Erasmus of his skill. He also showed that footwork, intelligence, pace and an understanding of how to use space can trump sheer physical presence. Leyds scored one of the individual tries of the season in his 50th Super Rugby outing. He constantly proves wrong those detractors who dismiss his possibilities as a Test player because of an obsession with size. His versatility also makes him an asset to any match-day squad.

3. Elton Jantjies delivered in his 100th Super Rugby match for the Lions. His goalkicking was without fail and his all-round variety on attack was a reincarnation of former All Black flyhalf Carlos Spencer in his prime. Spencer has been among the positive influences in Jantjies’ career, having also mentored him as a player and a coach. South African rugby fans have never had a problem acknowledging the qualities of Spencer. It’s time they afforded the same praise to South Africa’s version of Spencer.


1. I hate the term quota and the implication that every black player is a quota and every white player, by virtue of his birthright, is a supposedly "merit" selection. Siya Kolisi and Jantjies, two of the stars in last year’s Boks' 3-0 hammering of France, both played their 100th Super Rugby matches in the last fortnight. Yet both are still viewed by so many on social media as quota players when their track record is a reflection of rugby excellence. It’s disgusting and again highlights the prejudice black players constantly face in South Africa. So many fans are concerned with the 45% "quota" target, but none seem to have an issue with the 55% white quota!

2. Adriaan Strauss has enjoyed a purple patch this season, which had me thinking he could make a remarkable comeback to Test rugby, especially because of the injury to first-choice hooker Malcolm Marx. But Strauss’ horror defensive display for the Bulls against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires ended the romance of that notion. Strauss was awful and he struggled with the physicality and pace of the game. Watching Strauss in the early hours of Sunday morning was as painful as it was watching his last season as a Bok captain.

3. A player’s face and head are no-go zones and it should not even be a debate about the impact of a blow or an interpretation of what constitutes the degree of force. The kind of premeditated malice we saw from Brumbies lock Rory Arnold on Jantjies was an assault, supposedly legalised because it came in a game of rugby. Arnold should not play again in the competition this year.

Keohane is an award-winning rugby journalist, former Springbok communications manager, founder of and the author of five best-selling rugby books.

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