Bok coach cleared but Saru’s watching

2010-08-11 00:00

WHILE Springbok coach Peter de Villiers yesterday welcomed being cleared of charges of misconduct, South Africa’s rugby bosses are watching him.

The charge against De Villiers was lodged by the Tri-Nations organisers after his comments on Australian television on July 21 suggested that the New Zealanders had been treated favourably by the referees in two successive Tests because they are hosting next year’s Rugby World Cup.

Sanzar (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia rugby) said yesterday that the charge of misconduct against De Villiers was dismissed by their judicial officer, Jannie Lubbe, in Cape Town.

“Lubbe stated that during his television interview, De Villiers never mentioned or referred to referees or match-fixing,” the Sanzar statement read.

De Villiers said he is satisfied with the outcome of his hearing.

“As the verdict makes clear, at no time did I mention referees or a conspiracy and the finding has put this whole incident into context. The matter is behind us and we can get on with preparing for our next Test match. I will not be commenting on it further.”

While De Villiers, understandably, wants to forget the past and concentrate on the Test against the All Blacks in Soweto on August 21, his relieved employers are in less forgiving mood.

“De Villiers’s media utterances will be monitored by us on an ongoing basis,” SA Rugby Union president Regan Hoskins said.

“Saru is very pleased that the hearing has gone Peter de Villiers’s way,” said Hoskins. “We’re very relieved. We know the coach and the team are going to concentrate now on one thing and one thing only, which is the upcoming Test in a few weeks’ time.

“We had a meeting with Peter before this inquiry, even before he was charged, and we dealt with the issue of media statements. We will continue to do what is right for Peter and for our team and for our organisation,” Hoskins added.

De Villiers, who insists on addressing the media in English although his first language is Afrikaans, maintained that his comments were misinterpreted

“I’ve got my own observations about the last two Tests, and I can’t say it in public,” De Villiers said at the time. “But we do have a World Cup in New Zealand next year, and maybe it was the right thing for them to win the games so they can attract more people to the games next year.”

Two days later, and following heated New Zealand reaction, De Villiers attempted to clarify his remarks.

“My comment during the interview was based on the general view that part of the success of any World Cup event rests on the fact that the host nation has a winning team,” De Villiers said.

“Nevertheless, I regret that this may have created the wrong impression and raised undue concern for Sanzar and the RWC 2011 organisers.”

It is not the first time that De Villiers has had to smooth ruffled feathers after media statements. After the second Test against the British Lions last year, he was forced to withdraw his condoning of dangerous play by Bok flank Schalk Burger.

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