Springbok coach Peter de Villiers, as he so often does, has a strange way of getting his point across and he was at it again on Monday, after naming the team to face the British and Irish Lions on a three-Test series later this month.
The Afrikaans-speaking De Villiers, never one to take a step back went fronting up to the media despite his obvious frustrations at eloquently expressing himself in English, likened controversial uncapped back Earl Rose to golf legend Tiger Woods.
Rugby 365 reports that De Villiers made no excuse for his affinity for Rose, and also strongly defended the selection of out-of-form scrumhalf Enrico Januarie.
He also had sound reasons for the absence if form players like Zane Kirchner and Heinrich Brussow.
However, it is his persistence with Rose and the reason for doing so that is likely to raise a few eyebrows.
De Villiers, in defending some of his selections – such as Ruan Pienaar’s inclusion despite a lengthy lay-off, Januarie’s selection ahead of other in-form scrumhalves and Rose – produced a real pearler.
On the selection of Januarie, De Villiers said: “Form is temporary, class is permanent.”
He said that Januarie’s experience counted in his favour.
“Jano [Vermaak] will be a Bok.”
De Villiers then produced his Tiger Woods quote.
“Ruan [Pienaar] is the Tiger Woods of rugby and I believe Earl Rose is in the same class,” he said, adding: “I never make decisions unless I’m convinced, I would never play with players’ lives.
“I’m sure Ruan will stand up to the challenge.”
He also took a swipe at Lions coach Eugene Eloff, for not giving Rose enough game time.
“I believe in him.
“We must not look at why he is in this squad, but rather question why he did not get the same chances as other players had. But if we have to, we will work with him to make him a better player.”
He was equally defensive about the lack of a specialist fullback in the squad and the absence of outstanding Bulls No.15 Zane Kirchner.
“We do have a few brilliant players there that have played in that position before,” DE Villiers said.
“I don’t know when do you qualify as a ‘recognised’ rugby player, but we certainly do have a few options [at fullback].
“We will use the best combinations [in the Tests] for the kind of rugby we want to play.
“A guy like JP Pietersen played fullback for the Sharks, he moved [to wing] last year, Morné [Steyn] can be very good at fullback, Jaque Fourie was a fullback for the [Golden] Lions for many years and also played [in that position] for South Africa and Francois Steyn can play there.
“What we plan to do is look ahead, past this Lions tour. Those guys are still young [enough] to stay with the team till [the World Cup in] 2011 and beyond that.”
He said that Kirchner is not the only player that was unfortunate to miss out.
“If we sit down and start dotting down names, we’ll be able to select a Bok side that will be able to give this Bok side a run for their money.
“Zane Kirchner was brilliant [in the Super 14], but we have only two weeks to prepare [for the Tests].
“That is why we stuck with the players that have been in the Bok fold and know the culture of the team and won’t let the team down.
“It doesn’t mean he is out of the running, but we first want to see if he can make the step up at the Emerging Boks and then we will know where we stand with him.”
He was also asked about flank Heinrich Brussow and other “unlucky” players.
“We have a guy like Johann Muller, who can feel very unlucky, he is a good leader. You have Luke Watson, who played great rugby, guys who won’t let the Springbok side down.
“There will always be those who are disappointed.
“We won’t harp on about who we could have [selected], we will make the best of the opportunities we do have.
“It is very difficult and tough to leave some players out of the squad.
“There are about 12 players that could so easily have been in the squad, but team dynamics, cohesion and all that stuff played a role.
“It is the best group we could get for the excursions [against the B&I Lions].”
He said the door is “wide open” for players in the Emerging Bok squad should there be any injuries in the Test series.
“It is going to be three long, tough weeks against the Lions and in the third week is when you mostly get fatigue setting in and injuries occur.
“The guys in the Emerging Bok side, there are a few of them that are next in line for Bok selection.”
The other selection puzzle is the lack of a specialist tighthead prop, but De Villiers said Deon Carstens’s versatility saw him win the position of back-up tighthead in the Springbok squad.Tweet