Ashwin no-show shock as SuperSport probe submitted
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - SuperSport were due to receive the independent review into the Ashwin Willemse studio walkout storm later on Monday ... but it will be minus vital testimony from the key source of the pundit and former Springbok wing himself.
Sport24 has learnt from reliable sources that Willemse, who sensationally downed his microphone during live Super Rugby studio coverage on May 19 and walked out of the studio, has not presented evidence to the probe, under the charge of Advocate Vincent Maleka.
Contacted for comment, Maleka confirmed that he would be handing in his report on Monday - he had earlier asked for an extra week to complete it after an initial deadline of June 11 had been set.
But he would not say whether all relevant parties in the dispute had presented statements to him, advising Sport24 to contact attorney Dario Milo, a specialist in corporate and tax dispute resolution.
He could not immediately be reached.
Willemse was non-committal when asked whether he had presented a statement to the inquiry, saying: “At this point I have no comment on the matter. I would be willing to chat to you at a later stage … you have my number.”
But it has been learnt from other sources that Maleka has had to bypass testimony from Willemse in assembling his report and findings.
The major figures in the controversy - Willemse and fellow-punditry heavyweights Nick Mallett and Naas Botha, who were on duty together when Willemse downed tools - have consistently stayed largely mum to the media subsequently.
Willemse told a live audience at the time that he was “tired of being patronised” by the other two, who “played during the apartheid era”.
He also said he had endured being branded a “quota player” throughout his career.
It is known that widespread interviews have been conducted by Maleka’s panel throughout the SuperSport pecking order following the incident.
According to sources, no evidence of race-related misconduct by Mallett or Botha will be presented in the findings, and that the pair, who have been inactive since the uproar although on full remuneration, should soon be reinstated to studio roles.
It is understood that Maleka’s area of jurisdiction specifically covered the May 19 flashpoint itself, and not any prior tensions; it has been fairly widely reported that Willemse and Mallett, in particular, have not seen eye to eye for some time.
Willemse is likely to be offered retention of his SuperSport duties as well, but the pair are unlikely to be placed in the same studio panel henceforth by mutual request.
Often a staple presence at the studio touchscreen, Willemse may also be offered more in the way of pitch-side presentation at major SA-hosted matches.
*SuperSport communications chief Clinton van der Berg, who would not comment on other aspects of the probe, asked that Sport24 contact him later in the day for when the corporation might issue a public statement following the report hand-in.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing