Brisbane – Perhaps it was that pink tie he had on when he announced his first Springbok squad, perhaps his strange statements in the media, or perhaps just the high expectations created by South Africa’s success at the 2007 World Cup. Whatever the reason, one fact remains: Peter de Villiers’s critics are struggling to eat their words and give the coach his due.
Louis de Villiers writes for sport24.co.za
If the Springboks lose against the Wallabies in Brisbane on Saturday – and it is a definite possibility – something will again be said of his perceived shortcomings. If South Africa win it will be down to the players and, if they lose, the coach will be blamed by the critics.
However, De Villiers is building a record second to none. Following South Africa’s Tri-Nations win in Perth, the Springboks have won 15 out of 20 tests under him. Ten of the victories have come in the last 11 tests. Of these, only the victories over Italy and a weakened Argentina last year can be viewed as easy games. It makes De Villiers the most successful coach of the professional era.
It is sometimes said that he inherited his predecessor Jake White’s team. However, White has been off the scene for almost two seasons now. De Villiers has already chalked up as many wins over New Zealand as White, who does deserve credit for establishing a policy of consistency of selection.
However, the World Cup victory blinded people to South Africa’s previous standing in world rugby. It is only in the last month or two that people stopped doubting the Boks’ superiority.
“This team is much better than the one that won the World Cup in 2007,” said esteemed Wallaby coach Robbie Deans this week.
Prior to De Villiers, Nick Mallett was the last coach to enjoy sustained success in successive seasons. One of the reasons for that was his initial policy of player empowerment.
De Villiers’s loyalty to his players – as seen with the banning of Schalk Burger – means that a Gary Teichmann or Gaffie du Toit-style debacle is highly unlikely. Ruan Pienaar is probably embarrassed at being compared with Tiger Woods, but he won’t for a minute doubt that he has his coach’s support.
There is no doubt that De Villiers has a gifted generation of players at his disposal. You could say that about most of his predecessors, but their reaction was to hand out test caps like sweets. White, mercifully, ended that tendency, but was possibly too conservative and slow to change.
De Villiers deserves praise for the fact that superstars such as Jaque Fourie and Schalk Burger had to regain their places off the substitute’s bench.
He was a little fortunate with the emergence of Morné Steyn and Heinrich Brüssow, but also seized the opportunities when they presented themselves.
De Villiers’s fiercest critics will have to concede: If he resigns tomorrow, he leaves a stronger Bok team behind than the one he inherited.Tweet