Apologise to Div, or else
Brisbane – “Make a public apology or we won’t speak to you again.”
That is the ultimatum that the Springbok team have issued Australian TV company Fox Sports after coach Peter de Villiers was called a clown during the company’s rugby programme, The Rugby Club.
Former Wallaby hooker Brendan Cannon said in a discussion on Wednesday night about the upcoming Test between the Springboks and Wallabies that De Villiers is a clown.
“I can’t believe that senior players like John Smit and Victor Matfield allow themselves to be controlled by this guy. He is a clown. He surely does not coach the team,” said Cannon.
A number of De Villiers’s most controversial statements from the past were mentioned, with each panel member belittling him.
Springbok spokesperson Anthony Mackaiser said that it was decided then that enough is enough.
“I spoke to the executive producer of the programme and we are demanding an immediate apology. They have no right to talk about our coach that way and we view it in poor taste and a very negative light,” he said.
Mackaiser said they had informed the station that no Springbok player or member of management would speak to Fox until Cannon has apologised on air.
If Cannon does not do it, no interviews will be possible in the build-up programmes prior to Saturday’s Test.
Fox are the local affiliate of Newscorp, who owe the TV rights for the Tri-Nations and as such have certain preferential rights. One of them is interviews in the build-up to a Test.
As in New Zealand, De Villiers is a popular topic in the local media, who are painting the Boks as a bunch of undisciplined bullies.
A report in The Australian earlier in the week referred to De Villiers as an “extremely unpredictable man”.
The attack follows several similar attempts by TV stations and newspapers in New Zealand to belittle De Villiers.
His relationship with the international media on tours has never been good, but the comment by Cannon is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Meanwhile, Rugby Heaven columnist Greg Growden has described the Bok coach as rugby’s own Richard Pryor. He described De Villiers as a “part-time Springbok coach and full-time comedian”.
He writes that rugby writers seldom have to fight for front-row seats in coaches’ press conferences, but this week there was excitement in the air as De Villiers was in town.
Meanwhile, a study here has shown that rugby’s popularity is on the wane. Rugby is now just 13% of the Australian population’s preferred sport as opposed to 22% in 2003.