It has been eluded to by a lot of people in the last two years with their criticism of team selections and game plans amongst other things – but it is now time for Peter de Villiers to make his personal mark on the Springboks if he wishes to be remembered as the coach that led the most successful Springbok teams, or the coach that was just lucky enough to be there at the right time.
A lot of comparisons have been made between Jake White and Peter de Villiers in the last two years, and although it is an exercise as folly as comparing players of today to yesterday, there is one thing that does stand out from all successful coaches present and past, and that is their ability to imprint their own identity as coach on the team.
One of the most concerning things for me about Oregan Hoskins since he took office after the shambles of Brian van Rooyen was his statement that he wants to give everyone a voice in SA Rugby administration, and allow him to be led by the leaders of the organization.
Management 101 will show you that the best way to manage people effectively is by empowering them, and although this holds true in a lot of aspects, it should not come at the price of the actual manager undermining his own power or status because of this – you still need a strong leader or general.
The most fundamental difference between Jake White and Peter de Villiers at the moment is that from the outset, Jake White instilled the Jake White ‘brand’ or philosophy in the Springbok team. He did pick his leaders around him and there were some pretty strong ones too, but Jake was never led nor did he ever move away from his ‘brand’ or identity as Bok coach.
Peter has been accused of riding the wave of Jake’s success many times over, and even if this is true it is not a bad thing for most part as we all know, you do not change something that works.
However, if you fail to impose your style, personality and character into any structure, even if it is successful, your success will be short-lived and you will allow yourself to be led, rather than to lead.
A widely shared perception amongst rugby fans, experts and scribes was that this Northern Hemisphere tour should have been used to firstly rest some of our senior players who had a massive year behind them, and two to identify up and coming youngsters and talent.
De Villiers’ strength in the last year according to most was that he learned very quickly from his mistakes and when things went a bit south at times, he quickly adapted to rectify the crisis or problem.
I have a slightly different view on that.
I believe that we are winning the battles but ultimately losing the war, and one of the things that bugged me is that whenever things go wrong, Peter falls back on the tried and tested formulas that has been a work in progress (and possibly at its peak now) since Jake White and 2004.
Add the fact that Peter is quoted many times as to ‘listening’ to his players when making decisions and it is easy to perhaps see why I believe Peter is failing in instilling HIS brand and his style and personality to this Springbok team, and is rather allowing himself to be led, than to actually lead.
Both Nick Mallet and Rudolph Straeuli have been accused to start listening to too many people around them and that being the reason for much of their failures.
From where I sit, Peter should now start to show some balls of steal, and back his instincts and instill his brand and legacy on the Bok team, because like many before him he might just be found out if he does not.
This can be done without making wholesale changes and not for one second do I suggest to throw out what is working, but I fear Peter and the class of 2009 (and beyond) lacks an identity and is riding off the back of the brand created in 2007 in Paris where the Boks won the World Cup.Tweet