Exclusive Q&A with Peter de Villiers

2011-09-30 08:13

1. How have your four years on the job been?
It’s been a really bumpy road. At the start of my term as Bok coach I set myself a few goals that I wanted to achieve on and off the field.

Looking back I can say that some of them have been achieved and obviously there are others that haven’t gone according to plan and others I still want to achieve. However, the intellectual property and experience that I have gained over these four years cannot be taken away from me. Nobody can buy that and it will be with me forever.

2. Were there times during the four years where you asked yourself, gee-whiz, what am I doing here?
Yes, it was difficult especially in the first year. Nobody supported me and some people wanted me out of the job. You make sacrifices for your country but nobody appreciates it. So yes, that first year was really tough. But I never took my eye off the goal because I knew what I wanted and I also knew that this job I could make the difference to the lives of a lot of people.

And here I especially refer to those who never had the kind of privileges that other people had. They never thought that they were worthy within themselves. They were never seen as human beings. Those are the things that made me bite the bullet and I am so glad I did.

If people determine how you think then there is something wrong with you character. I knew all the fights and I knew what the agendas were. By giving in to those demands of certain people I would have had to sell myself short and not be the person that I am and the one that God created.

4. Springbok rugby has always been associated with Afrikaner dominance. How difficult was it to be the first black coach of the South African national rugby team and to win people over in the South African rugby hierarchy?
I don’t know, I really don’t know because I wasn’t appointed to win popularity contests. But I never forgot where I came from and tried to live by the principles that I have been taught by my parents. And I think those are the things that not only won over the players but also lot of people in South Africa.

5. There was a period in you tenure when even players and administrators of the black rugby union Saru criticised you for not bringing through enough black players. Are you happy with amount of black representation in the Springbok side during your time as Bok coach?

One thing we need to do is to ask ourselves what we want as a rugby society. Do we want an all-black team? Or do we want the best players to play? I didn’t make the springbok jersey cheap. All the players who played for the Springboks during my term always knew that they were good enough. And at any particular moment there wasn’t anybody better than them.

6. Are you happy with pace of South African rugby transformation and do you think that it could possibly still be accelerated?
I think you can’t transform a rugby team if you can’t transform a society. We have a lot of talent. But sometime they are not given enough opportunities to express their natural instincts and grow their talent. There is not enough sport in schools any more. So how can you transform a Springbok side if you cannot transform the minds of the teachers who work with seven- or eight-year-old kids.

7. How did you feel when several senior rugby writers in the country were saying things like senior players were responsible for the coaching of the team and that you were just listening to what they had to say?
I hope they say the same to all the chief executives who are responsible for the success of big companies. I don’t have any time for short-sighted people because they won’t grant you the space to progress in life.

8. Where will winning the Rugby World Cup rank in your list of achievements?
Winning the World Cup will only be just reward for four years of hard work. If we don’t win it wasn’t meant to be. I only have a couple of months left and of course it would be great to end off on a high.

9. Can South Africa go on and retain the Rugby World Cup?
I think we have enough big-time, competent players and we have it within ourselves to go all the way. All we have to do is improve and win all the games.

10. Where to for Peter de Villiers after the World Cup?

That is an open question with no answer at the moment.

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