Kolisi speaks out about Etzebeth saga
WORLD CUP REACTION: South African captain Siyamthanda Kolisi has finally broken his silence over the escalating Eben Etzebeth saga.
The Springbok lock, Etzebeth, will line-up against Italy in a must-win Pool B clash at the Shizuoka Stadium in Japan on Friday, despite allegations of physical and racial abuse hanging over him.
The matter stems from an incident in the South African coastal town of Langebaan on August 25, during which a man was allegedly racially and physically abused by a group.
The South African Human Right Commission will approach the Equality Court on Friday to ask it to hear what amounts to a civil case, a date for which will only be set later.
State prosecutors have yet to decide whether there is a case to answer.
Etzebeth has denied any wrongdoing and for now, remains part of the South African squad.
Despite the controversy, Etzebeth looked happy at the eve-of-match training at Ecopa Stadium, leading the squad onto the pitch wearing a cap and a large grin.
His first-up stretching was done with the skipper, Kolisi – the two seemingly in deep conversation and apart from the rest of the 31-man squad before being called in for group passing drills.
“To be honest, I don’t know what’s really happening [back in South Africa],” said Kolisi.
“I think SA Rugby issued a statement this morning.
“I know Eben is playing this week.”
Asked whether the giant second row forward had been affected by developments, Kolisi said: “No, not from what I’m seeing.
“We’ve just been preparing for the game.
“Every game for us is now a play-off game because if we slip up we’re out of the competition.”
‘He’s in a good space’
Assistant South Africa coach Mzwandile Stick also said the focus was entirely on the match against Italy, the winner of which will likely advance to the quarterfinals.
“I’m not going to lie to you and say we know much about what’s happening with the case back in South Africa,” Stick said.
“At the moment, we’re in the World Cup and as coaches and players, we’re just focusing on making sure that we get the team into the right space.
“At the moment Eben’s full-out for the World Cup.
“He’s going to be playing tomorrow and he’s going to be focusing on the game.
“He’s been in a good space as a team player and also the players around him in the squad are in a good space.”
On Wednesday the South African Human Rights Commission confirmed that they will institute legal proceedings against Etzebeth.
The process will get underway in the Vredenburg magistrates court on Friday.
The 78-times capped lock was interviewed by Human Rights Commission officials before flying out with the South African squad.
He has denied both allegations.
Buang Jones, Head of Legal Services at the HRC, told @rugby365com that they feel taking the ‘legal route’ is the best way to go.
“We are calling on SA Rugby to do the right thing and recall him [Etzebeth] from the World Cup,” Jones told this website.
Jones said in the case against Etzebeth they would ask for “monetary compensation”, a public apology and seek the “criminal prosecution” of Etzebeth.
He expects Friday’s hearing to set a timeline for the way forward.
The Commission will also hold a public meeting in Langebaan on Thursday, October 3, to report back on progress made in dealing with this complaint.
The national controlling body, SA Rugby, said on Thursday it would abide by the jurisdiction of the Equality Court and confirmed it had instituted an “internal process” to address the issue.
“SA Rugby reaffirms its commitment as a good corporate citizen to abide by any requirements placed on it or its employees by South African authorities,” a statement read.
“Following our discussions with the South African Human Rights Commission, we have instituted an internal process to address the matter, the details of which remain an employment matter between SA Rugby and the player,” it added.