Colourful Springbok coach Peter de Villiers, as animated as only he can get, has stirred the emotions ahead of the third and final Test against the British and Irish Lions by suggesting that maybe it is time for rival coach Ian McGeechan to congratulate the Bok mentor on his series victory.
Jan de Koning writes for rugby365.com that on the same day that he passionately defended suspended flank Schalk Burger and was then forced into a joint apology over his eye gouging statements at the weekend, De Villiers said it is time for the Lions and their supporters to “honour” the fact that South Africa have won a fiercely contested series.
The Boks took an unassailable 2-0 lead – with just Saturday’s third Test in Johannesburg remaining – and De Villiers revealed that neither the Lions coach, McGeechan, nor any of his staff or players, have bothered to congratulate the South Africans on their series victory.
In fact the Lions camp, as well as the large British and Irish media contingent, have focussed on the allegations that Burger eye-gouged wing Luke Fitzgerald in the first minute of last Saturday’s 28-25 Bok victory in Pretoria.
Burger has since been banned for eight weeks for “an act contrary to good sportsmanship” – by making contact with the face in the eye area of Fitzgerald.
While McGeechan has spoken at length about his team’s “run of bad luck” and suggested that the Lions could easily have been 2-0 up instead of two games down, De Villiers felt they could have been a bit more graceful in defeat.
“We are the winners of a series, and we are happy about it,” De Villiers told a packed media gathering on Monday, adding: “This country can now rejoice.
“I would love the Lions supporters to honour the fact that we won.
“It was tough, it was the best, the hardest Test series I saw in quite a while. We came back from a poor start and never thought we would be able to come back, because this is a brilliant Lions team that is here [in South Africa].
“What I would love is just for people to stand up and take it on the chin and say, ‘well done South Africa, well done for what you have achieved in this series and well done to everybody out there’, like we [South Africa] did in 1997 [when the Lions won the series].”
When asked if McGeechan or any of his team and management members have offered any congratulations to the Boks, De Villiers said: “Well, nobody has congratulated us up to now, but maybe they will do so after the third Test.
“That doesn’t take away the magnitude of winning the Test series and doesn’t take away the joy in our camp.
“The guys are so overjoyed that these little things, like last night’s JO [judicial hearing which handed down the ban to Burger], didn’t even take away the fact that we won it.”
* Meanwhile South African Rugby Union President Oregan Hoskins issued a joint statement with De Villiers on Monday to “apologise” for comments in the wake of last Saturday’s Test against the Lions that appeared to give the impression that the organisation condoned eye gouging.
In the statement – as De Villiers did in the media briefing earlier in the day – Hoskins and De Villiers jointly condemned all acts of foul play and sent out a clear message that such acts would not be tolerated in South African and fell outside the spirit as well as the letter of the Laws of the Game of Rugby.
“We would like to apologise to the rugby community for the erroneous impression that acts of foul play are in any way condoned by South African rugby,” said Hoskins in the statement.
“That has never been the case and is not now, and we support strong action by rugby authorities when such acts occur.
“Rugby is a physical game and a hard game, but it is a game that rightly prides itself on good sportsmanship and we as SARU categorically condemn any such action. SARU fully supports any action that the IRB feels appropriate to stamp out eye gouging in the game.”
De Villiers added that as Springbok coach he stood against play that was not in the spirit of the game.
“Eye-gouging is something that we as a team will never be part of,” he said. “The same applies to biting, head-butting, spear tackling or any other foul play that doesn’t belong in the game.
“My comments on Saturday were based on what I know of Schalk Burger as a player and not on what occurred. It was never my intention to suggest that I condone foul play – that is the last thing I would ever do and I apologise for creating any other impression.”Tweet