Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie has cleared the air over controversial comments made by outgoing hooker Joseph Dweba over his unhappiness at past mistreatment. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The highly-regarded Dweba, who has signed an overseas contract with French club Bordeaux, was in the news on Tuesday after a candid RugbyPass interview in which he opens up on various wide-ranging events and incidents throughout his playing career.
Referencing past experiences, Dweba said he grew extremely frustrated with mixed messages from some former coaches and limited game time, while he also referenced an old contract offer that he described as ‘shitty’.
In an exclusive interview with SARugbymag.co.za on Tuesday night, though, Fourie said he had since spoken with Dweba to clear the air, and reiterated there were no ill feelings, while also clarifying which contract the hooker was referring to.
‘I was disappointed, especially because of some of the headlines which said the Cheetahs offered him a shit contract, and that’s not true and not what he meant [about the latest contract offer]. He was speaking about a previous contract, I think in 2017, which was for the 2018 season when he was the No 3 hooker behind Torsten van Jaarsveld and Jacques du Toit.
‘What I’ve heard is they didn’t give him a big increase or offered him something similar at that time, and that was the contract he was referring to, and not the latest one before he left for France. So I think some of the headlines were misleading in the sense that we gave him a very good offer to try and keep him in Bloemfontein.’
Fourie added that during his conversation with Dweba, the 24-year-old clarified his comments and also emphasised there were no ill feelings from his side.
‘What he spoke about with regard to experiences a few years ago or with previous coaches, obviously I can’t comment on … He knows he was maybe a little bit wrong to talk about some things from the past, but he’s not going away on a bad note.
‘He even asked if he can train with us for a bit before he leaves for France, and I’ve said that’s fine and he will join us if we get back to training before he can jump on the first fight to France. So there are no hard feelings.
‘Some things were taken a bit out of context in the article, especially if you take into consideration the lengths we went to try and keep him. Our offer to keep him was a really decent one and would have made him the second-highest paid player in our group.
‘So the message to our supporters and public out there, is to just say that it wasn’t a case of us not trying to keep him, and we really did our best. He was happy in our squad, was playing well and was on the brink of making the Springbok squad. So his career excelled here in the end.’
Fourie added that there also shouldn’t be any misconceptions around Dweba as a team player.
‘I told him today as well that sometimes you have to go through the hard times and setbacks as a player to grow and get a bit more determined to get what you want. It’s not always bad to go through challenging times, and you’ll always have different opinions from different coaches … You can only learn from that and come out stronger on the other side …
‘My experiences of Joseph as a player were always very good. There were some past criticisms of his game or his work rate, but he really worked on that. He knew if he wanted to play for the Springboks he needed to make some improvements, and we saw what a good player he is. Joseph took the constructive criticism, and we all got along well.’