Springbok coach Peter de Villiers, in standing his ground if the face of a fierce media storm, on Monday won a small battle – strongly defending suspended flank Schalk Burger.
Jan de Koning reports that De Villiers, in his own unique linguistic style, insisted on Monday insisted that Burger – who was banned for eight weeks after being found guilty of committing an act contrary to good sportsmanship – was not a malicious or nasty person that deliberately engaged in an act of ‘eye gouging’.
De Villiers made it clear that he does not condone eye gouging – just like he does not condone biting, spitting, head-butting or spear tackles.
The Bok coach’s engagement with the media – for whom he has made it clear he has very little time – was without doubt one of the most entertaining media gatherings of the year.
The harder the British and Irish media tried to coax him into a trap, the firmed he stood his ground on his opinion of Burger.
De Villiers said he was awaiting the full judgment on Burger’s ban, before they will decide what steps, if any, will be taken.
However, he was adamant that the stalwart flank is not some deranged animal that goes about deliberately injuring people.
“I’m against anything that’s not in the spirit of the game,” De Villiers said, adding: “We [the Boks] don’t need to go to that low [levels].
“To try and even prepare them [the Springbok players] to do things that don’t belong in the game is not how we behave. We will never encourage anybody to be negative.”
De Villiers then entertained the media by suggesting that if him and his team wanted to ‘eye-gouge’ Lions, they would go to the Bushveld – which ironically is where the B&I Lions are at present, on a two-day R&R.
However, his position on Burger’s character is what kept the media wags going for almost half-an-hour.
“Schalk’s nature and character is – if you know the man like I know him – not the kind of person that would go to that measure,” he said, after asked if he changed his view on Burger’s actions.
This came after De Villiers at the weekend suggested that Burger should not have been yellow carded for the incident involving Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald in the first minute of the Test, won 28-25 by the Boks.
“I don’t think he did,” De Villiers said, when again pressed on whether he felt Burger’s actions were deliberate.
“We are passionate about our game and if we were to encourage things like that, we’ll be fighting a lost cause,” he said, adding that they will abide by what stands in the full judgment from the judicial hearing.
“I watched the TV footage and I am still convinced it was not on purpose,” the Bok coach said, adding: “When he [Burger] saw the footage he was taken aback.
“If you look at the footage properly and you know the man [Burger] you can see why I said that [on Saturday night],” he added to repeated questions about his defence of the Bok flank.
De Villiers said he had spoken to Burger, but declined to divulge details of their conversation.
“He is an honourable man,” De Villiers said, again defending the Bok flank.
He also had a full go at those who suggested that South African players are overly aggressive and nasty in their physical approach to the game.
“What we must understand is rugby is a contact sport, and so is dancing,” the Bok coach waded in, adding that in dancing you don’t have the “collisions” you have in rugby.
“If you analyse the game properly, you will see we could have cited a guy for maliciously jumping with his shoulder into somebody’s face,” he said in reference to Brian O’Driscoll’s head-high tackle that knocked out replacement lock Danie Rossouw.
“If we want to win games in boardrooms and on TV screens, we might as well go to the nearest ballet shop and buy ourselves some tutus,” the Bok coach added.Tweet