Clock ticking for coach De Villiers

2010-12-05 16:27

Victory over England last week might have silenced the alarm bells ringing in Springbok rugby but for Peter de Villiers their sound has simply been ­replaced by the altogether more unnerving ticking of an alarm clock.

When the coach rolls over and hits the snooze button in his plush London hotel room this morning, having lived to tell the tale of a testing tour during which his contract became ­increasingly dog-eared after the defeat to Scotland, it will be exactly 40 weeks to the day until the Springboks begin the ­defence of their Rugby World Cup title.

Whichever way you prefer to slice it – be it 280 days or 6?720 hours or just over 400 000 minutes – time isn’t on South Africa’s side as they head inexorably towards a September 11 showdown with Wales, whom they hung on to beat last month in Wellington.

Word from the South African Rugby Union offices this week was that De Villiers, despite a season during which the world champions lost six Tests, including five in the Tri-Nations, will be the man in the coaches’ booth when the two sides meet in the New Zealand capital in their Pool D opener.

All of that has been rubbished, by Saru of course, concerning the futures of assistants Dick Muir and Gary Gold.

Whatever their fate, the three men will be called to a standard tour review upon their return, and the one question sure to crop up is whether the team’s failed attempt to win the grand slam has jeopardised the Boks’ chances of becoming the first team to retain the World Cup.

De Villiers’ initial plan was to use the matches against Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England to introduce promising youngsters such as Pat Lambie, Elton Jantjies and Coenie Oosthuizen to Test rugby.

But the close nature of the matches and the loss to ­Scotland meant that they only made their debut in yesterday’s glorified friendly against the Barbarians at Twickenham.

The BaaBaas might have boasted numerous All Black and Wallaby superstars but with the fixture lacking the Test match bite, the trio’s aptitude for international rugby remains untested.

Jantjies and Oosthuizen will arrive home tomorrow having not won a Test cap, while Lambie’s four Test appearances all came as a second-half substitute for regular flyhalf Morné Steyn, about whom this tour would have told De Villiers nothing he did not already know.

But while the pro-exposure lobby might have a point when they say that the tour was a wasted opportunity to blood new talent, good news for Springbok supporters is that, realistically, this tour will have little to no bearing on their chances of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in 10 months’ time.

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