It was reported that Coach Peter de Villiers will not be supporting the Springboks, after the South African Rugby Union (SARU) failed to act appropriately on the allegations levelled at Eben Etzebeth.
In an interview with Planet Rugby, the former Springboks coach stated that he “finds it difficult to supports” the Springboks after allegations of racism were made against Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth.
Etzebeth had been accused of being part of a group that referred to three Coloureds as “hotnots” and assaulting one of them in Langebaan
Coach de De Villiers felt that the correct approach by SARU should have been to suspend Etzebeth and pending an investigation into the allegations against him.
“An internal investigation into the matter would have been the right thing to do as those are serious accusations made against the player,” said Coach De Villiers.
Instead, SARU opted to take Etzebeth at his word and include in the team that went to Japan for the World Cup.
“I take allegations of racism personally because if you use racist words against the average man in the street then you can easily use it against me as well,” said Coach de Villiers.
“By simply accepting Etzebeth’s word and not launching an investigation, SA Rugby missed an opportunity to show that they are serious about stamping out racism.”
Coach de Villiers used the case against England cricketer Ben Stokes, as a point of reference.
Stokes suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) after he was involved in a brawl outside a Bristol nightclub two years ago.
The Coach says that the ECB “did the right thing when there was a cloud hanging over Stokes’ head”.
“He could not represent his country while his incident was under investigation and surely the same thing should have happened with the matter involving Etzebeth,” added Coach de Villiers.
Coach de Villiers stated however that he will be “neutral” during this World Cup and he will remain loyal to South Africa by never supporting another country’s team.
He also added that the way SARU had dealt with the Etzebeth case could lead to several rugby supporters of colour opting to support other countries, adding to those already supporting the All Blacks due to allegations of racism.
Coach de Villiers’ concerns are not without merit.
South African rugby had seen record declines in match attendance over the last few years and the lack of enthusiasm for their World Cup campaign has been palpable.
This lack of support has been especially evident in what was a large base among Coloured rugby fans, most notably due to the treatment of Coaches Peter de Villiers and Allister Coetzee.
It is especially evident when the Western Province team plays at Newlands.
During Coach Coetzee’s term, Newlands had set record attendance numbers but those numbers had fallen dramatically since his departure, effectively bankrupting Western Cape rugby.