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Former SA Captain apologises for 'coconut' usage

Former Springbok captain Bob Skinstad

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Article Published: Monday 23 April 2012|

Former Springboks captain-turned commentator Bobby Skinstad has been forced to apologise for using the words "coconut tackle" when describing a tackle by Chiefs wing Lelia Masaga which left him and Sharks winger Lwazi Mvovo concussed.

Skinstad commentated on the Sharks vs Chiefs game for South African broadcaster Super Sport and made the reference after Masaga chased a high kick and clashed heads with Mvovo in a tackle.

Both players went down and looked dazed but both shook it off after some time.

Masaga simply appeared to mistime the tackle but Skinstad immediately said that Masaga's intent was malicious.

"Lelia Masaga has gone head high in an absolute coconut tackle straight on to Lwazi Mvovo and tried to take his head off," Skinstad said.

Chiefs loos forward Scott Waldrom who stayed behind tweeted "Does the SA commentator know that the term "coconut tackle" is actually a derogatory term??"

Skinstad responded by saying, "No, it was me and have never heard or seen it like that, apologies, thought it meant head high or 'nut'. Ok?"

"Never seen it like that, heard the term and thought it meant aiming for the 'nut' - no harm meant, sorry."

Another twitter user @Broncos_NRL added, "coconut is a racist term to describe a pacific islander, it's like calling a black man the N word".

Masaga was born in Wellington but has Samoan heritage.

Another Samoan player Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu has also weighed in on the comment saying the term, "Was used to degrade my people. It youre going to use nut, use hazel, cashew, almond."

A number of South African twitter users defended Skinstad as he said he did not know about the term so Sapolu later added, "if he says he didnt know then he didnt know. All is good."

Other rugby players including All Black Jerome Kaino, referred to the comment on Twitter but laughed it off.

This is not the first time that a SuperSport commentator has used the term when commmentating on a Super Rugby match.

In 1997 Andy Capastagno referred to a Brian Lima hit which left Joost van der Westhuizen injured as a "coconut tackle".

Capastagno later apologised on New Zealand TV, saying the word "coconut" had no racial connotations in his country.

However the term coconut is now used in South Africa as a derogatory insult against someone who is described as having lost their heritage as they appear to be black on the outside and white on the inside similar to a coconut.

A greater concern is arguably the way the officials allowed the match to continue longer than it should have when both players were "out" despite the incident being next to the touchline and in front of an assistant referee.

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