South African union probes Etzebeth assault and racial abuse claims
The South African Rugby Union has launched an internal investigation over an allegation of assault and racial abuse against Eben Etzebeth, the second-row forward who starts today for the Springboks against Italy in Shizuoka.
Etzebeth is alleged to have assaulted, racially abused and pointed a gun at a 42-year-old homeless man in Langebaan, near Cape Town, in August. The 81-cap lock strongly denied he was involved in the incident at the time, after grainy video purportedly showing the incident was seen on social media.
Etzebeth said: “It is completely untrue and unfounded to claim that I physically or racially abused anyone in Langebaan. Multiple witnesses can corroborate that.”
At a South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) meeting in Johannesburg, he denied wrongdoing and promised full cooperation.
SARU has insisted it would not tolerate “acts of violence or racial abuse” and in August acknowledged Etzebeth’s denial, saying it trusted players to tell the truth.
However, the governing body has now chosen to conduct the review in the middle of South Africa’s World Cup campaign as opposed to when the allegations first emerged.
The SAHRC was due to meet the complainant yesterday. Buang Jones, one of its officials, said: “We will definitely ask for monetary compensation. We will ask for a public apology. We will ask for criminal prosecution of Mr Etzebeth. We will ask for community service and other forms of relief.”
However, Siya Kolisi, the South Africa captain, and Mzwandile Stick, assistant coach, both said the matter had not distracted the team.
Kolisi said: “We’ve got a really important game and every game from now is a play-off game, because if we slip up, we are out.”
Stick added: “Eben has been focused on what we want to achieve, and the management will deal with the case, and SA Rugby back in South Africa.”