Max du Preez

Proud of the Boks

2009-07-08 13:27

I was proud of the way the Springbok rugby players protested against the injustice perpetrated against one of their own last Saturday.

I've heard many namby-pambies complain that it was "silly" and "irresponsible" for the Boks to wear the white arm bands during the last test.

But if John Smit and his men did not protest against the outrageous decision to suspend Bakkies Botha as they did, they would not have been true to the spirit of South Africa.

This is how we do things around these parts. We stand together, we protect and defend our own. An injury to one is an injury to all. If you cross us, we will make you feel it.

We are not English. We are Africans. This is robust territory.

That is why I don't really care what the British and the Australians (who is this phenomenon called Spiro Zavos?) say about the often interesting ramblings of our national coach, Peter de Villiers. Peter is not an English gentleman, he is an African rugby coach.

What's wrong with eccentricity?

I find Peter's statements and explanations entertaining and fascinating. What is wrong with a bit of eccentricity? Why do we insist that he act like a refined diplomat, always measuring every word, never offending anyone?

This is rugby, for Pete's sake, not international affairs. At least the guy has a personality. At least he's interesting. I can't say the same of Ian McGeechan, however much we respect the Lions coach. He brought no colour to the game.

I think Peter was correct to make ten changes in the last team to play the Lions. Not only did those ten guys have the absolutely unique and special privilege to play the Lions, but we had the opportunity to see them perform under pressure.

Some of them passed the test, most of them didn't. But we had the series in the bag already. And remember, this is sport, not war.

I did not like it when Peter turned the criticism of Ricky January into a racial incident. But he did have a point, didn't he? Most white rugby supporters' prejudice is still very close to the surface.

I didn't like it when Peter stood up at a public function before the April general elections and pledged his vote for the ANC. But let's be honest, would it have created such a furore among rugby supporters if he had pledged his vote to the Democratic Alliance? I don't think so (although I'm sure Makenkhesi Stofile and Butana Komphela would have had multiple heart attacks if he had). Louis Luyt and other rugby bosses were open about their political allegiances and it didn't bother many people.

A fine chap

All in all I think Peter de Villiers is a fine and interesting chap. I would love having him over for a braai.

It's just a pity he simply doesn't have the vision and scientific understanding of the game rugby football required to be a coach on that level of competition.

It's just a pity he doesn't have the tactical and strategic abilities one would expect of the coach of the world’s number one rugby team.

His selection choices have been disastrous at times. Example: the find of the season, Heinrich Brussouw, had to be forced down his throat.

His decision to send virtually the entire bench onto the field towards the end of the first test nearly cost us the series. There was no evidence during the final test that he had worked out any new plans to counter the rampant Lions.

Let's be honest, a drawn series would have been a much fairer reflection of the Lions visit. We were very lucky to win.

It is true, I'm afraid, that De Villiers is still riding on the coat tails of Jake White. Perhaps the Boks would have done better against the Lions if they had no coach at all.

Not playing intelligent rugby

If the team did not have the knowledge, cohesion and leadership of veterans John Smit, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Fourie du Preez, Jean de Villiers and Bryan Habana, they would have been humiliated by the Lions.

I fear we are going to be humiliated by the Wallabies during the upcoming TriNations series. We're not playing intelligent rugby any more.

We need a new coach. The best one we can find. The next World Cup is just 26 months away.

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