September 13, 2019 / 8:45 AM / 3 months ago

Former Bok coach won't support team at World Cup in Japan

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Outspoken former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers says he will not back South Africa at the Rugby World Cup in Japan while lock Eben Etzebeth has an allegation of racism hanging over him.

A complaint has been laid against Etzebeth with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which is investigating whether the player physically and racially abused a patron at a bar last month.

Etzebeth has categorically denied any wrongdoing and is with the Boks in Japan as they prepare for the World Cup, having also been given the backing of South African Rugby until such time as an adverse finding is made 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,” De Villiers, who was the first black coach of the Boks between 2008 and 2011, told Planet Rugby.

“I was surprised that SA Rugby have opted not to take that option and allowed Etzebeth to go with the team to the World Cup.”

De Villiers says SA Rugby have “missed an opportunity” to take a stand against racism.

“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,” he said.

“I therefore cannot support the Springboks at this year’s World Cup.”

Etzebeth said after the incident there were “multiple witnesses” who would confirm he was not involved.

“It is completely untrue and unfounded to claim that I physically or racially abused anyone as has been reported on social media. Multiple witnesses can corroborate that,” he said in a statement.

SA Rugby has also given its provisional backing to the player, saying it would let the investigation at the SAHRC run its course before taking any action.

“We will not tolerate acts of violence or racial abuse,” SA Rugby said in a statement on Thursday.

“SA Rugby will take appropriate action once the legal investigation and process have concluded.”Etzebeth is a key figure at lock for the Boks and one of the most experienced members of their squad with 79 caps.

He is a certain starter when they face New Zealand in their tournament opener in Yokohama on Sept. 21.

Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Robert Birsel

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