Two South African cricket officials have been slammed for their part in a 'disgraceful' stunt aimed at taunting David Warner and his wife.
A number of fans wore masks depicting New Zealand rugby player Sonny Bill Williams' face during the opening day of the first Test in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
The stunt was a nasty dig at Warner, whose wife Candice had a well-publicised encounter with Williams in 2007, before she met the Aussie vice-captain.
According to Fairfax, the masks were originally banned from the St George's Park ground until officials had a change of heart and let them in.
And in a stunning twist, Cricket South Africa executives Clive Eksteen and Altaaf Kazi were snapped smiling and linking arms with three spectators wearing the masks.
The photo of CSA's head of commercial and marketing, and head of communications, has reportedly angered the Australian team, as well as the decision to allow the masks into the ground in the first place.
Warner has revealed it was a 'vile and disgusting' sledge about his wife from South African wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock that sparked his stairwell meltdown on day four of the first Test.
The Aussies were already aware of the masks after fans posted a number of photos on social media in the lead-up to the first day's play in Port Elizabeth.
Team officials reportedly moved to get the masks banned because Candice and her two young daughters are in attendance for the second Test.
South African cricket writer Telford Vice condemned the fans who orchestrated the disgraceful stunt.
Eastern Cape has always had a sense of humour: fans getting Sonny Bill masks ready for day one of the second Test in Port Elizabeth. pic.twitter.com/jXU0cEBwfE— Dan Nicholl (@dannicholl) March 8, 2018
“Those South Africans who have shown themselves to be no better than Warner by trying to engage with him on his own pitiful level — perhaps they‚ like him‚ know no other way — disgrace all of us along with themselves,” Vice wrote for The Times.
“They disgrace men. They disgrace cricket followers. They disgrace South Africans. They disgrace the human race.
“Do they get that what they have done is stupid and embarrassing and not at all funny?
“Good on them. They must be so proud.”
Former Aussie player Jimmy Maher also blasted the stunt.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous to see that sort of behaviour allowed to continue,” Maher told Fox Sports News on Saturday.
“It’s getting really personal now and it needs to stop.
“We don’t need to see that sort of stuff.
“That’s very cruel and very personal and I don’t think it should be allowed to happen.
“It’s crazy when you’ve got young kids and a family of your own and you’re trying to play a sport. It needs to be stamped out.”
Warner was fined approximately $13,500 and slapped with three demerit points after being charged by the ICC with bringing the game into disrepute for his furious run-in with de Kock.
South African cricket tour going to absolutely explode with @ChrisBarrett_ story revealing South African cricket officials posed with fans wearing Sonny Bill Williams masks designed to taunt David Warner. Could turn into one of ugliest cricket tours of all-time— Ben Dorries (@bendorries76) March 9, 2018
This is the lowest act I have ever seen in cricket.— Peter Lalor (@plalor) March 9, 2018
These “men” should be ashamed of themselves. An absolute and utter disgrace.
Quinton de Kock may have been provoked, but they have no excuse.
Also, and probably more importantly, this ongoing public shaming of Candice Warner is horrendous.— Melinda Farrell (@melindafarrell) March 9, 2018
Alive and well indeed. I am so utterly embarrassed that this is people's idea of a joke or even of a decent, legitimate thing to do. It was International Women's Day yesterday but that seems to have been overlooked here. Shameful. https://t.co/IxCcvjk1cV— Firdose Moonda (@FirdoseM) March 9, 2018
It means the opener will automatically cop a suspension if charged by the ICC during the next two years.