Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Div digging himself a grave?
Cape Town - I wouldn’t blame Nick Mallett if he was finding it harder and harder to suppress an ironic chuckle.
We know that the opinionated, larger-than-life former Springbok coach’s employers were earnestly seeking a peg to hang him on at the time anyway, but let’s not forget that he was axed from his job professedly because of his public utterances over “excessive” Test ticket prices.
Incumbent Peter de Villiers, as we already well know, is hardly lacking in the verbosity department himself.
In fact, I would say he has way, way eclipsed - albeit in his slightly higher pitch - the booming-voiced Mallett for being what journalists like to term “always worth a quote”.
And herein lies, I fancy, an ever-mounting source of embarrassment to his SARU bosses … with De Villiers, if anything, only cranking up the often-crackpot sound-bites rather than toning them down.
He has already in this Test season, remember, incurred the displeasure of the hands that feed him with his loose ramblings about referees being involved in a pre-World Cup conspiracy to blow kindly for the All Blacks.
And I suspect he is skating on increasingly thinning ice: ice that might even crack, or at least come desperately close to it, once the final Vodacom Tri-Nations match against Australia is safely out of the way.
Reading between the lines, it does seem as if De Villiers could face the music – loud music, even – over his clumsy, indelicate pro-Bees Roux comments following the Blue Bulls prop’s much-publicised arrest in relation to the death of a metro policeman in Pretoria.
SARU president Oregan Hoskins has diplomatically promised an “assessment” of the controversial coach’s statements, but it is just possible that diplomacy may not be a key theme to the inquiry.
For certain members of the rugby hierarchy are reportedly, and not altogether unexpectedly, livid over the perception that De Villiers was taking sides in the Roux matter - and seemingly on behalf of the Springbok team.
Frankly, it is beyond outrageous that De Villiers got involved, whatever the circumstances (and there are many diverse prongs to it, it seems) of an alleged murder case yet to formally begin.
I hardly need to justify my stance by exploring the deep complexities and sensitivities of the society we live in – and have lived in – at this point, and nor should my view thus be interpreted as some clear-cut partiality in any direction in the Roux business.
Let justice, and whatever that process reveals, run its rightful course.
But I can only imagine how SARU officials, of varied political and social dispositions, would have winced when they saw front-page lead headlines screaming out such words as “Boks rally behind Bees”.
Of course there were going to be ripples and a groundswell of concern and anxiety within the Bok camp: Roux is a friend and provincial team-mate of several players in the national fold.
But whatever thoughts De Villiers might have had, he ought to have expressed them internally to his charges - certainly not by public platform.
He is also showing signs, alas, of a return to an old smugness tendency he has had whenever the Boks are winning.
One schizophrenic, late-in-the-day home victory over moderate Australia after a glaringly lean period appears to have been all the buffer he needed to sound off in the manner some deep apartheid-era predecessor might have in his role.
I refer to his smart-ass suggestion this week that the players and management have “(formed) a laager to keep out negativity”.
Further, he said, in what sounded strongly like a pop at the media and more critical Bok followers in recent times: “I spoke about people being for us or against us, with nothing in between.”
Sorry, Div, but there are a few of us who fervently treasure our right to be very “in between” as analysts, neither embedded praise-singers nor dispensers of irrational doses of poison.
How some at SARU must be wishing, to an ever-swelling degree, that the national coach had more of the tact that is a hallmark of other respected coaches in the country like Heyneke Meyer or Allister Coetzee.
Yes, I have a strange gut feeling that “Div” is far from off the hook on latest matters. Is this going to be his Bees-gate?