It’s not often that international rugby journalists have to push and shove to get front-row seats at a test coach’s press conference. Such occasions are generally as alluring as a public stoning, since test coaches are the masters of saying nothing.
But yesterday in Brisbane there was a buzz of excitement. The Richard Pryor of rugby was in town. It was time to be revived by the wit and wisdom of the great Peter de Villiers, part-time Springboks coach and full-time comedian.
After all, this is the man who has observed: ”If you want to run with the big dogs you have to lift your leg”; ”I’m a God-given talent, I’m the best I can ever be”; and, ”We went wild, wild, wild – some of the guys went even wilder than that.”
And how about the time he defended crazed Springboks behaviour from Schalk Burger with these pearls: ”If we want to eye-gouge any Lions we will go down to the bushveld like we do and eye-gouge them there … Why don’t we go to the nearest ballet shop, get some tutus and get a dancing shop going? There will be no eye-gouging, no tackling, no nothing and we will enjoy it.”
Greg Growden writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that there were no bush or ballet analogies from de Villiers yesterday. But he was soon producing gems. With a screeching voice that just demands attention, de Villiers proceeded to give northern hemisphere referees a spray and contended that the Springboks had been unfairly targeted by the SANZAR citing commissioners – to the extent that Bakkies Botha and Jean de Villiers were already on their way home.
As he put it, it could be a lonely flight back to Johannesburg after the Brisbane test. ”I’m just glad we’re only here for three weeks, otherwise the coach would go home alone,” de Villiers said. And there was no point probing him about what he meant about the Springboks having to be more ”street smart” when they play the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
One Australian reporter asked if he could define ”street smart”. Pete wasn’t going to fall for that trick.
”Yeah. But I don’t think we should spell out everything, because you guys will also become street smart in picking up things.”
We weren’t quite sure what that meant. But it was time to move on. De Villiers giggled, then laughed out loud when asked about the state of the South African players’ minds and bodies. There was even an air of mystery, as de Villiers could not comprehend how they lost to the All Blacks last weekend. In the end it seemed to be the referee’s fault due to bewildering interpretations of the breakdown law.
Or as De Villiers put it: ”I don’t think they [the All Blacks] stepped away from the old law as much as we stepped away from it, because we want to play too much within the laws and give too much of a spectacle for everyone out there. Then we allow things like this to happen. So we have to become street smart.
”You look at that game over and over and over again, and we played so well, and we still lost. But you don’t feel so bad, even if losing hurts you deep down.”
Got that? Probably not. As de Villiers gave his farewell bow and the assembled reporters scratched their heads, we had to admit that we just weren’t street smart enough to grasp the true meaning. And as with watching all great entertainers, we departed wanting more.Tweet