Sky Sport New Zealand commentator Joe Wheeler has apologised after mocking Japan international Kazuki Himeno’s accent.
Himeno started for the Highlanders in their stunning upset victory against the Crusaders in Christchurch, as they hammered the reigning Super Rugby Aotearoa champions by 33 points to 12.
Wheeler was interviewing the man of the match Mitch Hunt after the game and praised Himeno’s performance, but did so while mimicking a Japanese accent.
Please tell me Joe Wheeler didn’t just make a fucking awful Asian accent joke when talking about Kazuki Himeno… pic.twitter.com/OTQRihkFam
— Jamie Wall (@JamieWall2) April 2, 2021
“He was leally impressive, wasn’t he? He was leally, leally good,” Wheeler said of Himeno, when speaking to Hunt on Sky Sport NZ.
‘This is not the standard expected of the sideline team’
Wheeler, who used to play for Suntory Sungoliath in Japan’s Top League, took to Twitter afterwards to explain that he had apologised to Himeno for mocking his accent.
“Tonight I stuffed up! I’ve spoken with Kazuki Himeno and apologised to him and the Highlanders and our Sky crew,” Wheeler wrote on Twitter.
“I absolutely accept this is not the standard expected of the sideline team. I’ve got some work to do obviously, but I’m absolutely committed to doing better.”
Tonight I stuffed up! I’ve spoken with @teikyo_8 (Kazuki Himeno) and apologised to him and the @Highlanders and our Sky crew.I absolutely accept this is not the standard expected of the sideline team.I’ve got some work to do obviously,but I’m absolutely committed to doing better.
— Joey Wheeler (@joey_wheelz) April 2, 2021
The Highlanders number eight responded to Wheeler on Twitter, telling him it was okay and congratulated his teammates on their upset victory.
Despite the Himeno and co’s 21-point victory, the Highlanders still trail the Crusaders at the top of the table by nine points.
The difference between them and the second-placed Blues stands at five points however, meaning that they are still in with a chance of qualifying for the Super Rugby Aotearoa final, as long as they win their remaining games.