De Villiers: I am the boss

2009-12-09 00:00

THE enigmatic Springbok rugby coach Peter de Villiers has ended the year on a prickly note as he reflected on the successful 2009 campaign.

De Villiers, in an interview with SA Rugby, contradicted both himself and his captain John Smit as he talked up his own role in the Springboks’ 2009 triumphs.

The national coach pooh-poohed the popular view that the senior players and the assistant coaches ran the Springbok ship.

“Let me make one thing clear,” he said, “I am the boss, the CEO of South African rugby. The final decision on how we play rests with me,” he said.

Earlier this season, after the Boks had beaten the All Blacks in Durban, De Villiers played down his influence, deflected praise and spoke instead of empowering the senior players and how they worked and planned together.

De Villiers refuted the suggestion that he was technically weak.

“When I said the All Blacks were scrumming illegally in last year’s Tri-Nations, I had video footage to back it up. No one else in the Bok squad had spotted it. The same thing happened when I questioned the Wallabies’ scrumming methods this year. I was the only person who saw what they were doing. I also make technical observations about other areas of the game, like lineouts and attack.”

He also dismissed the widely held view that it was assistant coach Dick Muir and not him who had made the wholesale substitutions that almost cost the Boks the first Test against the British Lions.

The instructions came from him, he said, but it was Muir who passed them because his voice was better suited to the radio they used to communicate with the bench.

De Villiers again said he had erred in not making the many changes earlier.

“I could see the guys were getting tired and they went into a defensive mode. By the time I brought the fresh legs on, we couldn’t get out of that defensive mode.”

Smit, in his autobiography, believes the Boks would have won by 25 points had the changes not been made.

“No,” said De Villiers emphatically, “I don’t agree with him.”

The Bok coach said he had no regrets about his handling of the Schalk Burger eye-gouging incident, but blamed the South African press for not concentrating on the Boks’ series win at the post-match conference.

“You [the SA media] sat back and let them ask me those questions about Burger. You wanted to see me fail,” De Villiers said, adding that the South African press had been intimidated by the British journalists.

He said that he had not mellowed during the Tri-Nations, but the South African media had changed because the Boks were winning.

“I will never change. That’s why I say I am who I am and I don’t give a damn.”

De Villiers told SA Rugby that the media had opposed him because their man [Heyneke Meyer] had not been appointed to the position.

“I know that most of the media have played rugby before, but I can tell by their questions that they haven’t played at a very high level. If it hadn’t been for apartheid, I would have played for the Boks.”

De Villiers said that he had succeeded in transforming the Boks “because the colour of a player’s skin doesn’t matter anymore”.

“I’m not going to pick black players to make up the numbers, because I will do them more harm than good.”

He dismissed criticisms from the government’s transformation committee.

“What have they done for the good of this country? What contribution have they made?”

But he did blame Super 14 coaches for not bringing through more black players.

“I’ve had to work 10 times harder than any other white coach to get to where I am today. Why wasn’t I ever offered a coaching job at Super Rugby level?” De Villiers asked.

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