Johannesburg - South Africa coach Peter de Villiers has defied the critics calling for his head by insisting the world champions have the right game plan for the World Cup starting in New Zealand in a year's time.
De Villiers is under intense pressure after the Springboks lost five of their six Tri-Nations matches this year, conceding a record 22 tries. The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has promised a "very serious" review this month.
He sparked further outrage in the week leading up to their final test against Australia in Bloemfontein when he said the team supported Blue Bulls prop Bees Roux "100 percent" after he was charged with murdering a black policeman in Pretoria. "It's painful right now, but I can promise the fans, who are our biggest stakeholders, that we will do it for them at next year's World Cup," De Villiers told SuperSport's Boots and All programme on Thursday.
"We have a very good game plan with which we fared so well last year. Maybe we believed this year that it (success) would just fall into our laps and we didn't focus on actually doing the job. Our focus maybe went to the World Cup too soon and then you lose focus on the job at hand. But we have learned valuable lessons."
Jake White, the coach behind the triumphant 2007 World Cup campaign, has been adding to the pressure on De Villiers by offering himself as the new coach.
"At a World Cup you need someone who has been a head coach at international level for a while. I am prepared to do that job and take it on on a temporary basis. I have experience of what is required, I know the players because two-thirds of the guys who make up the core group were players I coached up until the last World Cup," White said this week.
As the Springboks will play just eight tests before the World Cup, SARU are unlikely to axe De Villiers unless they are able to unearth a candidate who is guaranteed to make more out of the considerable talent still present in the South African team.
White's relationship with several of the players, most notably those from the Bulls, is also not as good as De Villiers'.
He has angered SARU by making public his desire to coach the team, was strongly criticial of the administration after the World Cup and has mounted his campaign immediately after the Springboks' worst Tri-Nations showing since 2006.
White was in charge in 2006 when the Springboks won two of their six matches and a side featuring 11 of the 2007 World Cup winners were beaten 49-0 by Australia in Brisbane.
The two leading candidates to replace De Villiers, former Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer and current Stormers mentor Allister Coetzee, both have issues which would probably keep them away from the job.
Meyer felt betrayed by the current administration when he narrowly lost out to De Villiers for the coaching role in 2008. Coetzee is under contract to the Stormers and Western Province, who this year turned down De Villiers' request for their defensive coach, Jacques Nienaber, to help the Springboks as a consultant.