De Villiers just pips Meyer, is first black Bok coach

2008-01-10 00:00

Cape Town — There was high drama behind the scenes before the SA Rugby Union’s presidents’ council appointed Peter de Villiers as new Springbok coach here yesterday.

According to reliable sources, presidents of some inland unions refused to accept the recommendation by the committee that conducted interviews with the four candidates.

The matter was put to the vote and De Villiers was elected, beating Heyneke Meyer by 10 votes to nine.

“I’m not going to provide figures but it was extremely close,” Saru’s chief executive, Johan Prinsloo, said later.

The committee that had to make the recommendation to the council was also sharply divided. The members are believed to have voted on the matter on Tuesday night before submitting De Villiers’s name.

The fact that the presidents’ council did not immediately accept the committee’s recommendation is an indication of how divided the members were.

Prinsloo said the final decision rested with the presidents’ council. “There were questions from members and they wanted to make an informed decision.”

Saru president Oregan Hoskins said the council eventually looked at a bigger picture than simply rugby.

“I want to be honest with South Africa and say that we did not consider rugby reasons only.

“We regard transformation as extremely important and felt it was important to make this appointment,” Hoskins said.

“I do not think it will create negative perceptions about Peter.”

De Villiers (50) wore a Blue Bulls blazer to the news conference. He joked that he was doing so to show that he, being from the Western Cape, has no problems with the people of Pretoria.

The man who is taking over from World Cup-winning coach Jake White described his appointment as a great privilege.

“That I am the first black Springbok coach is something we must now forget. I have to measure up to the same expectations as all other coaches,” De Villiers said.

Saru’s decision has received support from political circles. Butana Komphela and Cedric Frolick, chair and vice chair of the parliamentary portfolio committee on sport and recreation, and both ANC members, were delighted.

“I want to make it clear that Peter de Villiers is not a transformation appointment. He has been appointed on merit,” Khompela said.

“Rugby is now showing it is an agent for change and it can unite people around the Springboks.”

Frolick said it is the start of a new era in which players will receive equal opportunities.

“Peter’s qualifications speak for themselves. Here is a shift in power; the days of players being favoured are now over.

“We must give Peter a fair opportunity to implement his plans.”

Donald Lee, the DA representative in the portfolio committee, emphasised that rugby administrators themselves should decide who should fill positions. “I wish the new man strength.”

De Villiers’s coaching record compares well with that of Jake White before the former national coach’s appointment in 2004.

De Villiers coached the SA team that won the Under-21 World Cup in 2005.

He was also in charge of the Emerging Springboks that won the Nations Cup in Romania last year.

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