Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has made an astonishing admission: He does take advice from the senior players in the team.?
However, he remained adamant he was still in charge of proceedings within the senior national team.
Following three successive Tri-Nations defeats in Australasia, and with a title defence now out of the reach of the Boks, De Villiers has come under intense public scrutiny for the decline of a team that last year held every trophy available to them.
They have since allowed the Tri-Nations title and Freedom Plate to slip from their grasp, with the Mandela Cup just one defeat away from also leaving South African shores.
However, it is reports that there is a split in the coaching ranks and that it is actually captain John Smit and vice-captain Victor Matfield that are coaching the Bok team that have sent shockwaves through the country.
De Villiers, speaking in a weekly question and answer session with readers of the official SA Rugby dismissed the notion that he is just a token “affirmative action” coach.
“I’ve heard this so many times,” De Villiers replied, in answer to one reader’s question.
“It’s obvious that those with fixed opinions won’t change their minds whatever I say.
“I am the coach, but I do listen to players who have played in close to 100 Tests and won every trophy there is to win in rugby.
“It has brought us success and I don’t recall this being a criticism last year.
“I am not threatened by this talk – after all, I went to France to fetch John [Smit] back.”
De Villiers was also extensively questioned about his team selections, with one reader wanting to know why he did not use the younger players or give them a chance to get experience and build a team for the next World Cup.
The suggestion is that some of the older players are ready to move on.
“It is one of the key questions that we spend a long time debating in selection and this year you’ve seen that we have brought through young players like Francois Louw, Juan de Jongh, Flip van der Merwe and others,” the Bok coach answered.
“But the history of World Cups is that they’re won by experience – the Bok and England teams that won the last two were the most experienced in either teams’ history!
“All but three of Jake’s team won in 2007 had made their debuts at or before the previous World Cup, so experience can’t be a bad thing.”
He was also questioned about his ongoing support for out of form scrumhalf Ricky Januarie, as well as Ruan Pienaar, who is moving to Ireland. The reader wanted to know why Griquas star Sarel Pretorius was not given a chance.
“Sarel [Pretorius] was playing great rugby before his injury [in 2009] and he was in our plans for the end of last year.
“It was a bad injury and now he is coming right we will be watching him closely, as we will anyone who is playing well in the Currie Cup.
“However, that doesn’t mean we’re about to turn our backs on players who have already performed in the Springbok jersey.”
Of course, the name of French-based utility back Frans Steyn also came up.
“Frans [Steyn] is very much still in our thinking and we would like him in the team – we just have to balance the demands of club and country so that he can perform his best for the Springboks.”
And there was a question about Jean de Villiers or Wynand Olivier at inside centre – to partner Jaque Fourie.
“Jean [de Villiers] and Wynand [Olivier] are both very good inside centres, but when Jean moved overseas it was time to move on as it is difficult to assess form and fitness when players are playing in a different environment overseas.
“Wynand was again outstanding in the Super 14, while Juan de Jongh put up his hand.
“They performed well and as we knew they were performing at the top level, earned their selection.
“In addition we were expecting New Zealand to use the cross field bomb and Jean’s height is an asset in that regard, while his try-scoring record as a Springbok wing is outstanding – it wasn’t about breaking up partnerships, it was about making decisions in the interests of the team.”Tweet