No ‘Welcome to NZ’ for Boks

2011-07-30 00:00

THE Springboks copped some pretty bad weather in Sydney last week, but because of the fallout from the Wallabies’ loss to Samoa the weekend before, Bok coach Peter de Villiers was spared the intense scrutiny of that city’s media scrum during their stay.

The local scribes in Oz were justifiably more interested and concerned about their own team for once, and the Bok coach must have been a relieved man to escape the usual media attention he gets.

It was on the same tour a year ago that former Wallaby Brendon Cannon called our coach “a clown” on national television. He later retracted the comment and issue an apology to De Villiers, albeit a weak one.

This time around, though, all talk of a “B” team before the Boks arrived had the Aussies sharpening their knives again, but thanks to Samoa, those knives were turned on Robbie Deans and De Villiers enjoyed a relatively quiet last trip to Australia.

Not so in New Zealand.

Both John Smit and De Villiers saw microphones and tape recorders shoved in their faces upon walking through the arrivals door, followed by a couple of angry questions.

There was no permission asked if either Smit or De Villiers would be prepared to talk to them, neither was there a “Kia Ora, welcome to New Zealand” attitude towards the captain or coach.

The questions targeted allegations that the Boks were disrespecting their fierce rivalry with the All Blacks by sending a “B” side, that they are not in line with Sanzar principles in sending their best team, and that the “real” Bok side was in a secret training camp in Rustenburg.

Both swatted away those questions, but more was to follow on Thursday when the team was announced by SA Rugby’s CEO, Jurie Roux.

It was the former fullback’s first time in New Zealand and he clearly decided that attack was the best form of defence. He was adamant in his answers to questions about the “secret” camp, insisting that the reports from South Africa on this matter were incorrect.

“I’m not denying they’re in Rustenburg. I’m denying the fact there is a secret training camp. I’ve got my players being rehabilitated, that’s it,” he told a packed press conference.

“I run a multi-million rand corporation where my biggest assets are my players. They’re injured so I need to do something to get them ready for the Rugby World Cup.

“What do you do with an injured player? You don’t send him to Bali on holiday, you put him into your high-performance centre with the best doctor you can find and you put him in a programme to rehab and get to the World Cup,” Roux said.

“I don’t understand the conspiracy, I don’t understand the confusion.”

One will have to wait and see if that satisfied the local papers and whether they will lay the matter to rest now.

It is nice to know SA Rugby care about the Springboks and that they prepare that much.

It was also pleasing to see the NZ media worry about a “second-string” Bok side, but had no worries when a severely depleted Fijian team played the All Blacks the week before.

Also, it did not seem to bother them that a major reason why Fiji could not bring their best side, barring a number of injuries and suspensions, is the fact that the New Zealand government refused entry to some Fiji players.

Due to a military coup in Fiji a couple of years back, New Zealand are denying entrance to sportsmen with links to the military regime or who are part of the military itself.

Nothing in the paper about that, but boy oh boy, how dare South Africans insult the men in black by not fronting with their best team!

Politics in rugby and rugby in politics are almost the same thing, but they’re not exactly so, with the latter being the more positive of the two situations.

There was no outcry from SA Rugby in 2007 when Graham Henry rested numerous players during Super Rugby, also a Sanzar competition, as is the Tri-Nations.

South African rugby didn’t cry foul over the matter. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, suddenly it is a crime?

I think not. Well done, Jurie Roux.

It is about time we start to protect our players. The only thing we need to do now is make sure they play less rugby, by revisiting the Super Rugby format.

If not, we are never going to see two full-strength teams playing each other in a Tri-Nations Test. Ever.

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