South Africa assistant coach Mike Horn has said his comments about the Proteas’ Cricket World Cup semi-final line-up were “taken completely out of context”.
On Thursday, it was reported Horn said the Proteas changed their side for the match to meet quota requirements.
But the renowned adventurer and motivational speaker has since clarified his comments, made at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Shanghai, in a letter to Cricket South Africa.
“First of all I apologise for this controversy. If this event would hurt the feelings of the management team and the players, it was not my intention and I sincerely apologize,” Horn said in the letter.
“The story has been taken completely out of context.”
Cricket South Africa said Horn had confirmed that he was not aware of any political interference in the selection of the team for the semi-final match against New Zealand.
Horn said the point he was trying to make was that he personally felt he had failed in his job as motivator and performance coach, and was taking responsibility for the semi-final defeat.
“I confirm what I said in the sound bytes and the written articles, but the way it was written was not my sense of what had happened.”
CSA is now conducting a review of the matter.
Controversy erupted after the team that beat Sri Lanka in the quarter-final stage was changed to include fast bowler Vernon Philander ahead of the in-form Kyle Abbott.
Philander's selection raised the number of 'players of colour' – a term which encompasses black Africans, mixed-race people and those of Asian descent – to four, the same quota number that was previously implemented until it was abolished in 2007.
A report in South Africa's Sunday Times the day after the World Cup final said Philander's selection came at the direction of the Cricket South Africa board, a claim that was denied by CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat.
"There was and is no political interference in our selections," Lorgat said.
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A further report by Netwerk24 claimed Lorgat had sent a text message to Proteas head coach Russell Domingo on the morning of the match to pick another 'player of colour'.
"This is utter nonsense reporting with false allegations being made," Lorgat said in a statement.
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Philander, who missed four World Cup matches before the semi-final with a hamstring niggle, took 0-52 from eight overs against the Black Caps and left the field during the Black Caps' successful run chase due to injury.
After arriving back in South Africa after their World Cup exit, Proteas coach Russell Domingo defended the selection of Philander ahead of Abbott, who took nine wickets in four World Cup matches at an average of 14.
"Vernon was fully fit. He had been through all the rehab and fitness tests," Domingo said.
Quota-based selections have long been a topic of debate in South African sport and the Philander case comes after CSA increased racial quotas in domestic cricket.
Domestic franchises are now required to have six 'players of colour', including three black Africans, in their sides.
The Proteas have not had a racial quota since the system of including four 'players of colour' in the side was scrapped in 2007.