Peter de Villiers is in over his head

2008-08-29 00:00

IT is hard work being a supporter of our national rugby and cricket teams. No sooner do they lift us up than we are dropped headfirst into gloom. The Springboks have gone from champions to chumps in less time than it takes a monkey to peel a banana. The only surprise, however, is that we should be surprised. The appointment as coach of Pieter de Villiers was a case of political correctness delivering a result that could have been foreseen by anyone outside of Saru’s executive committee.

The rugby board now has a classic mess on its hands. The smart thing to do would be to crawl back to Heyneke Meyer, throw a bunch of devalued rands at him and pray that he is daft enough to accept a contract to see the Boks through to the next World Cup.

Just how the board thought De Villiers was competent enough to coach rugby at the highest level is beyond understanding, let alone the punters who are expected to pay R450 for a ticket to watch these Springboks play.

It might be a good idea to make the rugby board members pay R450 for their seats every time the Boks lose. Why should they watch these hideous losses in cocooned comfort? Let them start earning their keep by preserving the reputation of the Springboks, rather than making reckless decisions under the guise of transformation.

When that impostor Harry Viljoen was put in charge of the Springboks we heard the same claptrap that we are hearing now.

“This is all part of a process; it is going to take time; the team is very close; when they get it right they will be awesome.” The results were disastrous then and they are disastrous again.

Will the Springboks win today? Of course they will. The Wallabies have been hopeless at Ellis Park for so long that no living season ticket-holder at the famous ground can remember them winning there. More to the point is that the Wallabies do not need to win this match. Whatever happens at Ellis Park, they still need to beat the All Blacks in the final game of the series. Why should they bust their guts in a dead rubber?

The tragedy is that if the Boks do win, it will buy more time for the hapless coach. A win will let loose all the clichés in De Villiers’s limited locker. “The team has turned the corner. They are on the right track. They are coming to terms with the new laws. Soon they will be unbeatable.” You will have noticed that a real coach like Robbie Deans is not given to making such transparently self-preserving remarks.

What has been sickening has been the tiptoeing round the incompetence of De Villiers by so many of our seasoned critics, some of whom are famous Springboks who should know better than to play the game of political correctness. The sooner people call it as they see it, the quicker De Villiers will be sent back to his level of competence, wherever that may be. The paying fans, at least, made their opinions clear last Saturday.

The fact remains that De Villiers has turned the world champions into objects of pity in less than three months. He cannot deliver and must go.

No such fate should await Mickey Arthur until he has had another go at the Australians, but the wheels have fallen off his team. This one-day series, scheduled as it has been after the Olympic breather during which the team played no meaningful cricket, has found the Proteas playing without much motivation. Injuries and poor weather have not helped, but it still hurts to see them humiliated by cricketers doped up to their eyeballs on caffeine.

At least it has been confirmed, if any confirmation was necessary, that Vernon Philander is not a competent enough to play cricket at this level. His batting is embarrassing, his catching is worse than that of Geoff Boycott’s grandmother and his bowling is not of a class to sustain him in international cricket. He has ridden a wave of affirmative action for long enough. It is time to beach him.

I have been disappointed in the batting of JP Duminy. His reputation as the future of South African batting has been exposed as hyperbole. He has wafted ineffectually outside the off-stump until finally edging catches to the keeper. He seems to have a preoccupation with trying to score runs behind the wicket which, in his case, is the result of poor footwork. Batting is difficult enough when playing with the full face of the bat. Playing with less than half of it is suicidal.

After the manner of Duminy’s two failures, there is no case to keep Amla out of the one-day team. He has shown he is capable of scoring runs at a decent pace and has been in good form for some time. The selectors only need to ask themselves a simple question; given a crisis, who would they rather see batting at number five?

There is now more than just a hint that the one-day side needs a shake-up. The structure of the team has been weakened by the loss of Pollock and the declining performances of the ageing stalwarts. The time may have come to allow the veterans to pursue their dreams of Twenty/20 riches, if the Indians still want them.

•Ray White is a former UCB administrator.

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