A row over covert racism on the set of a South African sports show has further escalated with a major wing of the ruling African National Congress calling for South African rugby to be "placed in quarantine" if it could not implement transformation.

Minister of Sport and Recreation Tokozile Xasa has already called for rugby television presenters Nick Mallett and Naas Botha to be stood down after fellow presenter and former Springboks winger Ashwin Willemse walked off set.

Willemse castigated former Bok coach Mallet and former Bok great Naas Botha for undermining him before leaving the set live on air.

The comments that upset Willemse weren't seen or heard before Willemse voiced his frustrations at Mallett and Botha, who he called "two individuals who played in an apartheid/ segregated era."


Minister of Sport and Recreation Tokozile Xasa said in a statement she was "shocked by the alleged behaviour of rugby analysts at the SuperSport studios".

"This behaviour of entitlement by some white South Africans who continue to think that their whiteness represent better must come to an end. If it was not for a barbaric nonsensical apartheid system that privileged them, we could not have implemented (a) quota system to normalise an otherwise abnormal system," Xasa said.

"Willemse is not just a former Springbok player, but in 2003, he was named SA Rugby Player of the Year, young player of the year and the player's player of the year. Players like Willemse, Habana, Kolisi continue to make us proud as a nation, and affirm that they are not token players or quota players."

Willemse continued by saying that he couldn't work with people who undermined him before walking off the set.

Willemse, who made 19 appearances for South Africa between 2003 and 2007, said he was happy to have confronted Mallett and Botha on live television so "that people can see."

SuperSport host Motshidisi Mohono called the incident "unfortunate" after Willemse unhooked his microphone and walked off the set.

The ANC's Western Cape division, one of the biggest in South Africa, described Willemse's public outburst as the consequence of something black people experienced throughout the country in offices and meeting rooms.

"To be black is an ongoing source of being undermined, not taken seriously and spoken down to … and made to feel that they are outsiders to social circles in their workplace," said provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs.

Jacobs said the ANC in the Western Cape had seen how Willemse used his stature and hard-won position in society to ensure that previously underprivileged youth got a better chance than he did.

Meanwhile, civil rights organisation AfriForum criticised what it calls the premature "conviction" of Mallet and Botha, blaming it on "anti-white" sentiment.

South African opposition leader Mmusi Maimane said on social media that Willemse's experience was "sadly still and experience for too many South Africans. "We must build an equal society, where we confine to history a system of racial superiority and inferiority".

SuperSport, the South African equivalent of Sky Sport, said it could not confirm whether Nick Mallett and Naas Botha would be suspended. The channel said it will conduct a full investigation, and interview all relevant individuals.​