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AB de Villiers was reportedly miffed about playing Vernon Philander over Kyle Abbott © Getty Images

Sydney: South Africa cricket team captain AB de Villiers had considered withdrawing from his side’s semifinal tie against New Zealand in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 over the issue of dropping a white player and replacing him with a black player in the squad to make the team’s lineup more racially acceptable. New Zealand beat South Africa in nerve-wracking 4-wicket win

South Africa’s sports minister Fikile Mbalula denied that he influenced the cricket team to drop white bowler Kyle Abbott for Vernon Philander in last week’s World Cup semifinal against New Zealand, which reportedly created turmoil ahead of the match, with claims that De Villiers was considering withdrawing from playing over the issue.

A source revealed that de Villiers didn’t want to play in the semifinal because of this, adding that it was a clear case of interference by the board as they ordered Philander’s selection, News.com.au reported.

Mbalula, who is black, said that he was responding to accusations made by a dying breed of political dinosaurs and didn’t identify the source of the accusations.

Mbalula said in a statement that they know who are spreading these speculations and they would not dignify them by mentioning their names, adding that these were acts of desperate colonial apartheid apologists and insisting that they shall not be deterred by their mischief.

The sports minister released a second statement rejecting the unfounded allegations, with the South African sports media focusing intensely on the issue. Mbalula’s denial was backed up by Cricket South Africa chief executive Haroon Lorgat, who said there was absolutely no interference with team selection at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

However, the South Africa cricket team does have an informal agreement that it should normally have at least four non-white players in its lineup and without Philander against New Zealand, they would have had only three.

Although a high-class bowler, Philander was out of form and struggled with injury at the World Cup, while Abbott impressed with his form. Philander also appeared to be not fully fit when recalled for the New Zealand game.

However, Philander did arrive at the World Cup as a regular member of the lineup and ahead of Abbott in the pecking order before his loss of form and injury problems, the report added.