Earlier this week, Nick Mallett declined an invitation by the Southern Kings’ new owners, a private consortium that named itself Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World (GRC), to be part of a panel to pick a head coach for the new season.
It was a rather distasteful affair.
The suggestion had been mooted a week or so back before Bantwini Matika, a member of the franchise board and also the deputy president of the Eastern Province Rugby Union, wrote an explosive Facebook post.
He accused the former Springbok coach, who had a 71% win record, of being a racist.
“As a board member of the Kings I don’t think it’s true that we need help from Racist Mallet[t] to find a suitable coach for our team. Mallet[t] is not suitable to help us and look for a coach who will be dedicated to build a totally transformed Kings Team. Mallet[t] will never support our transformation agenda.”
Kings chair Loyiso Dotwana was furious, calling for Matika’s removal from the board, saying his behaviour was “destructive”.
Yet, following a shareholder meeting, nothing happened to Matika.
This saga raised two points.
First, it illustrates the Human Rights Commission’s hearing into allegations of racism by ex-Bok winger Ashwin Willemse against Mallett and others at SuperSport can’t start quickly enough.
There’s no doubt Matika’s gripe was based on that now infamous incident.
To be fair to Willemse, he needs the hearing to finally state his case. The two men need closure.
More importantly, the Kings look set to be hamstrung by one of the oldest ailments plaguing local rugby: professionalism versus amateurism.
The GRC stated how proud they are of being the first wholly black-owned and controlled franchise in the country, but also emphasised sustainability. And picking the right head coach is a crucial step to that aim.
Yes, we don’t have clarity on Mallett’s alleged prejudices but he’s still cleared of racism.
Surely his professional rugby opinion could’ve been value-adding?