CSA suits in hot water over Sonny Bill masks

10 March 2018 - 13:28 By Telford Vice‚ At St George’S Park
Fans posing as Sonny Bill Williams during day 1 of the 2nd Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and Australia at St GeorgeÕs Park on March 09, 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Fans posing as Sonny Bill Williams during day 1 of the 2nd Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and Australia at St GeorgeÕs Park on March 09, 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

Two senior Cricket South Africa (CSA) officials are under fire for appearing to endorse the wearing of Sonny Bill Williams face masks during the second test between South Africa and Australia at St George’s Park.

CSA issued a statement on Saturday to “distance” themselves from their employees’ actions.

The masks are part of a spectator campaign in reaction to Australia opening batsman David Warner’s off-field verbal attack on South Africa wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock during the first test at Kingsmead.

De Kock apparently reacted to Warner’s sustained sledging on the field by making a comment about the Australian’s wife‚ further enraging him.

Eight years before she married Warner‚ the then Candice Falzon had a much publicised encounter in the toilet of a Sydney hotel with New Zealand rugby star Williams — hence the masks.

A photograph taken at St George’s Park on Friday and posted on social media shows three fans wearing Williams masks and standing arm-in-arm and smiling with CSA commercial and marketing manager Clive Eksteen and communications head Altaaf Kazi.

The story‚ which broke in the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday night‚ quoted Kazi as saying: “Initially security wouldn’t let them in (with the masks).

“We found out because (the spectators) contacted us and we then went to security and got them in. They said ‘let’s take a photo with you guys’.”

The Australia team had got wind that fans would wear the masks‚ and had asked for that not to be allowed.

Kazi denied that his actions amounted to support for those wearing the masks.

“People come in dressed as all sorts of things. We let people in with Hashim Amla beards.

“We’re very clear from a stadium perspective that we monitor the behaviour and language of fans.”

CSA’s statement quoted president Chris Nenzani as saying‚ “On behalf of CSA I extend my sincere apologies to the board of Cricket Australia‚ its officials‚ team management‚ players and their families.”

The release itself said: “CSA wishes to distance itself from the alleged action of certain officials in associating themselves with fans wearing masks representing the face of Sonny Bill Williams‚ which conduct is seemingly related to the Warner/De Kock incident during the opening day of the second test match at St George’s Park.

“While CSA respects the rights of its fans to represent their own points of view‚ CSA does not associate itself with these actions and urges all Protea supporters from refraining from being involved in distasteful or unwelcome actions that may impact the image of the sport and its supporters.

“CSA has taken immediate precautionary steps against the CSA officials allegedly involved in this incident and will follow the organisation’s normal internal processes in this regard.”

Asked what those “precautionary steps” were‚ Kazi told TMG Digital‚ “Please can you ask Thabang (Moroe‚ CSA’s acting chief executive) or Chris as I’m currently not in a position to make comments on this manner.”

Attempts to reach Nenzani and Moroe failed.

It is unclear whether the behaviour of officials of the status of Eksteen and Kazi is governed by the International Cricket Council’s code of conduct‚ which pertains to the actions of players‚ coaches‚ team support staff and match officials.

“An official must not do anything that may intimidate‚ offend‚ insult‚ humiliate or discriminate against anyone on the basis of race‚ sex‚ gender‚ national or ethnic origin‚ religion‚ culture‚ colour‚ sexual orientation‚ or otherwise‚” the code reads.