Mallett: ‘We irritate the hell out of each other’
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Fascinating insight into the clash of personalities between rugby pundits Nick Mallett and Ashwin Willemse comes out in the pages of the independent inquiry into the SuperSport studio walkout rumpus.
READ: The full Ashwin Willemse studio walk-off report
It will do little to supress the high likelihood, as reported on Sport24 earlier this week, that the pair will not be allied in the studio again, following Willemse’s downing of microphone and exit from the live broadcast of Super Rugby matches on May 19.
Nestled on page 22, almost halfway through probe convener Vincent Maleka’s 50-page report of his keenly-awaited review - publicly revealed on Monday - are aspects of former Springbok head coach Mallett’s three-hour testimony to him.
Test wing Willemse, by contrast, did not give evidence to the inquiry.
Maleka writes in the report, issued to media: “Although I did not interview Mr Willemse I was informed by both Messrs Mallett and (co-pundit and Bok flyhalf legend Naas) Botha that Mr Willemse was no pushover, and would strongly defend his views whenever he differed with theirs.
“(Mallett) references emails which he addressed to management at SuperSport, wherein he requested that he should not be rotated together with Mr Willemse for live studio broadcast.”
Excerpts from an October 2016 email from Mallett, to executive producer Scott Seward, are included, reading: “I really enjoy working with Bobs (Gcobani Bobo) and Xola (Ntshinga), Scott.
“They are a real pleasure ... Xola asks very good questions and Bobs knows enough about rugby to produce interesting clips for discussion.
“Unlike with the complex Ashwin, there are no agendas.
“It would be great if Ashwin could be moved ... where we don’t have to work together.
“I think he talks garbage, we irritate the hell out of each other and the working environment is just unpleasant and tense.
“I am very happy to work with Breyton (Paulse), Shimmy (Hanyani Shimange) or Bobs instead as, unlike with Ashwin, I respect their hard work and rugby opinions.”
Maleka also refers to September 2017 correspondence from Mallett to (another manager) Malcolm Russell, “wherein he indicated how well he worked with other colleagues such as ‘X’ (Ntshinga), Jean de Villiers and Breyton Paulse.”
The advocate concludes: “There is no doubt that Mr Mallett felt uncomfortable working with Mr Willemse, and expressed his preference to work with other colleagues.”
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing