While rave reviews abound, Snor takes a dig at Crusaders centre Sonny Bill

2011-05-13 00:00

CRUSADERS centre Sonny Bill Williams has been receiving rave reviews internationally, but Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has labelled the All Black as “a bad example to aspiring youngsters”.

Williams, the 108 kg rugby league convert, has been a revelation in the Crusaders’ backline where he has been particularly effective in the midfield and playing outside flyhalf Dan Carter. Forceful but creative, Williams’ ability to stand up strongly in the tackle and then off-load has added a new dimension to midfield play.

Opposing players and coaches have been singing the praises of the inside centre, with only De Villiers sounding a discordant note.

De Villiers questioned whether Williams would enjoy any success when marked by Bok and Stormers centre Jean de Villiers in the Newlands game. (Williams played a major role in the Crusaders’ 20-14 win in Cape Town).

De Villiers said that Williams’s flamboyant approach and risky off-loads would teach young players bad habits and they would ignore the core skills needed in the game.

“I hope he will mature his game,” De Villiers said. “He’s doing everything wrong what rugby principles require of you in the game.

“Backhand passes shouldn’t be the norm. Now everyone wants to do that kind of nonsense.He’ll spend hours and hours on the things that are not important and never master the most important things of rugby.”

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder, of course, disagreed, but said he did not want to become involved in a public debate with De Villiers.

Blackadder told reporters in Bloemfontein — where the Crusaders are preparing to face the Cheetahs tomorrow night — that Williams was an “unbelievable” player.

The Crusaders coach said rugby needed “heroes” like Williams.

De Villiers has always had a tendency to lead with his mouth and South African supporters will be hoping that his criticism of Williams does not come back to haunt him in the Super Rugby play-offs, the Tri-Nations and, most important, the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

There is not a coach in the world who would not want a Sonny Bill in their team and certainly the Springboks (and the Sharks, for that matter) would benefit enormously from Williams’ ability to create midfield openings and tries for his support runners. What is certain is that the Bok coach’s ill-conceived public statements, his Devillisms, add to the pressure on South African players and teams. De Villiers, in his own inimitable way, once remarked that “he who laughs last, laughs the latest”. There is a nasty feeling that it will be Sonny Bill and not Pete Helium (as he is known to the Boks) who will be laughing longest and latest in New Zealand in October.

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