Smit helps boost confidence
Springbok coach Peter De Villiers ended speculation about John Smit’s Rugby World Cup fate when he named him as Springbok captain for the 2011 tournament on Monday.
The strategic decision to make the announcement at this time was clearly intended to boost public confidence in the Springboks and to instill calmness among the players and within the Springbok camp as a whole.
De Villiers has always been a coach who builds his coaching success around strong relationships with his players, particularly the senior leadership among them.
It was De Villiers, who immediately after his appointment, flew out to France to meet with Smit and Victor Matfield to convince them to come back to South Africa and lead the Springboks.
This vote of confidence in them has since been enthusiastically reciprocated by Matfield and Smit and the recent announcement of them as the preferred leadership for the 2011 World Cup was to be expected.
These two wield enormous power and command considerable respect and admiration among the present player corps and as such, De Villiers will certainly depend on them to use it to maximum effect in his efforts to keep everyone focused on the goal to successfully defend their World Cup title.
This past weekend De Villiers called the 51 contenders for the World Cup squad together for a national planning session in Cape Town.
While attending the Stormers v Sharks Vodacom Super Rugby fixture, I found myself in the same hotel as the Springboks. I used it as an ideal opportunity to observe the interaction between the players and between the players and the coach. I made a deliberate effort to look for any sign of discomfort or discontent or anything that might indicate that there might be something wrong in the camp. I am sure that stories of discontent and unhappiness will in all probability start to resurface as we get closer to the World Cup. This storyline has been the pet project of certain journalists over the last few years.
While observing the players, both as groups and when individually interacting with the coach, I was struck by the respectful manner in which every single player addressed and interacted with De Villiers. They all addressed him as “coach” and acted professionally at all times.
I also spend some time observing how the players grouped together at the breakfast table on the Sunday morning after the Stormers v Sharks clash. The way Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis were jovially chatting with Jean De Villiers and Andries Bekker one wouldn’t say that it was the same guys that had a full go at each other a mere 12 hours earlier!
The professional manner in which they conducted themselves showed how the Springboks have grown as a professional unit and it inspires confidence in this group of players to represent us at the World Cup.
By now we all know that De Villiers is an individual and a coach that do things in his own unique way. From what I saw he is clearly in charge of this ship and any suggestions to the contrary are devoid of all truth.
De Villiers has also announced the appointment of Rassie Erasmus as his technical adviser for the World Cup, a strategic move that will stand him and the Springboks in good stead come September.
The display of hard, uncompromising South African rugby at Newlands and the return to winning ways of the Bulls, together with the tremendous vote of confidence in the incumbent leadership of the Springboks (Smit and Matfield) is a welcome shot in the arm for the Springboks’ World Cup campaign.
With the kind of spirit and enthusiasm I witnessed among the Springboks on Sunday morning I am more confident than ever before that the Springboks will not be travelling to New Zealand to merely hand over the World Cup trophy to the All Blacks, they (the All Blacks) will have to wrestle long and hard to get it from them. It will not be easy.
Gary Boshoff is a former SARU player and current Afrikaans rugby commentator on SuperSport.
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