Div still puts his foot in it

2011-05-02 22:50
Peter de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – Some things never change, like the ability of Peter de Villiers to make eccentric pronouncements and also arguably rub up influential people in a damaging way.

Only a few months out from the World Cup, when the harsh spotlight of the global media will have to be negotiated once more, the Springbok coach’s “quirky” side must remain a source of at least some concern to his SARU employers.

Presumably with the delicate aid of people like communications manager Andy Colquhoun, De Villiers has probably mellowed by some 50 or 60 percent and is even able to provide welcome candid, considered and useful observations to the media – as he mostly did in a recent briefing at Wellington.

But on Monday, at a follow-up press conference where John Smit was predictably confirmed as ongoing Springbok captain for 2011, he was back mixing the sensible with the slightly dubious, and thus stirring anew memories of his notorious “pink tutus” and “shooting lions in the bushveld” proclamations during the 2009 British and Irish Lions tour.

De Villiers came across reasonably convincingly, initially, as he defended his decision to stick with his leadership “old guard” of Smit and deputy Victor Matfield.

“I don’t have a lot of mood swings and I’m not sentimental,” he said. “I try to make the right decisions.

“Not once in my mind did I have doubts about (reappointing Smit and Matfield). They’re not young anymore; they’re in the evening (sic) of their rugby careers and we’re going to be so much poorer if we don’t (work on nurturing) successors for these two.

“But with them around me (for 2011) there’s no doubt I feel comfortable and safe ... we can take on the world with them.”

There were some ironic sniggers among the journalists present, though, when he suggested part of his reasoning for involving Rassie Erasmus as a technical advisor during the next few months involved the WP senior professional coach handling media aspects.

Erasmus, after all, is known to be reasonably media-shy and sometimes suspicious of the press, even if he is also capable of insightful interviews on rare occasions he is available for them.

“It took me three years to realise how exhausting you guys can become,” said De Villiers, admittedly laughing. “I needed someone at the back just to help us with that kind of things (sic).

“Also these guys, Victor 105 and John 102 (it may have sounded uncannily like Biblical terminology, but De Villiers was referring to their respective number of Bok caps), get used to a coach like me so I need to get something else to make things a bit different for them as well.”

A reporter asked what the Boks had got out of their two-day national training camp “closed session”, to which “Div” replied: “It wasn’t a closed session, but you also don’t do these kind of things (sic) on the street corner.

“You guys took up most of our discussions. We actually saw you as an opportunity to take on the rest of the world.”

Delightful images suddenly flickered of the not always pristinely-conditioned press corps making up the Bok XV for the defence of the World Cup in New Zealand, but De Villiers hadn’t finished ... and he was rapidly turning loose cannon all over again.

“We do understand going to the world (sic) that people don’t keep South Africans in high regard. They look down on us and think we’re a bunch of hooligans and that there are elephants running in the street.

“You can see it when referees make decisions ...  it’s always a kind of biased thing.”

That statement, particularly, will have caused some tremors among other senior Springbok personnel, because the coach has occasionally done the cause no favours before with his statements about whistle-men.

“We must stand together ... show people we’re actually more sophisticated than people outside think,” said De Villiers, warming ever more to his stint on the soap box.

“You guys can be the (catalyst – he used the Afrikaans word for it) for us in taking us to the World Cup, spreading the right messages so when we get to New Zealand the international media don’t have any ammunition to derail us when we get there.

“The senior guys spoke (at the planning camp) about how we actually have to have a partnership with the media.”
It could yet be a long, eventful winter in Springbok rugby ...

Read more on:    rwc 2011  |  peter de villiers  |  boks

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