‘Distasteful’ masks the latest low point in SA-Aus series

March 10, 2018

Australia's David Warner at the wicket on the first day of the second cricket test between South Africa and Australia at St. George's Park in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Friday, March 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Sheehan)

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (AP) — With relations between the teams already severely strained, two South African cricket officials have been photographed smiling with fans who were wearing masks designed to taunt Australia vice-captain David Warner.

The photograph, taken on the first day of the second test in Port Elizabeth on Friday, shows Cricket South Africa’s commercial and marketing head, Clive Eksteen, and communications head Altaaf Kazi standing and smiling with three men wearing masks with the face of New Zealand rugby international Sonny Bill Williams.

They are posing for the photo near a bar inside the St. George’s Park stadium. Eksteen and Kazi are wearing shirts and ties and their official cricket accreditations. Kazi has his arm around one of the fans.

Warner’s wife, Candice Warner, had a sexual encounter with Williams in a hotel toilet in Australia in 2007 before her relationship with the cricketer began. David and Candice Warner were married in 2015.

The masks, which Cricket South Africa labeled “distasteful” on Saturday when the picture became public, were being used by a small number of fans at the ground in Port Elizabeth to taunt Warner. He is currently a figure of hate in South Africa after his confrontation with South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock in a fractious first test in Durban last weekend.

While sports fans often engage in questionable behavior at stadiums, officials Eksteen, a former South Africa player, and Kazi are accused of condoning the taunting of Warner and his wife by South African supporters.

Candice Warner is with her husband on tour in South Africa and was at the ground on Friday with their two young daughters, according to Australian media, when the masks were being worn in the crowd.

“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 ... supporters from refraining from being involved in distasteful or unwelcome actions that may impact the image of the sport and its supporters,” the South African cricket body said.

CSA said Eksteen and Kazi were now subject to “internal processes.” CSA president Chris Nenzani apologized to the Australian cricket board, the team management, players and their families for the incident.

Australian newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Australia team was “outraged” by the South African officials apparently condoning the masks. Candice Warner’s encounter with Williams was widely reported in the Australian media, which coined the phrase “toilet tryst” to refer to it.

Candice Warner gained recognition in Australia as an “Ironwoman” endurance athlete. She is also a model and celebrity TV star.

The mask saga in Port Elizabeth is the latest incident to overshadow the cricket contest between two of the leading teams in the world, a series which was expected to be fierce but has been undermined by verbal exchanges between players, off-field incidents, and resulting disciplinary cases.

The Warner and de Kock confrontation in the first test happened when de Kock, apparently frustrated at prolonged on-field verbal abuse from Warner, responded with a comment about Warner’s wife and the encounter with Williams. Warner then had to be restrained by teammates as he argued with de Kock on a staircase leading to the dressing rooms as players came off the field for a break.

That incident came to light after security camera footage of the players making their way back to the dressing rooms inside the stadium was leaked to the media.

Warner and de Kock were both fined and given disciplinary sanctions for the altercation. Australia’s Nathan Lyon also was punished for an over-zealous celebration of a wicket in that first test.

On Saturday, South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada was charged for another breach of the disciplinary code for intentionally bumping into Australia captain Steve Smith on the field during day one on Friday.

Rabada denies the contact was intentional but faces being banned for the final two tests of the series if found guilty.


Gerald Imray is on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

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