Jean de Villiers maintains that he and Heyneke Meyer are on the same page regarding the Springbok game plan, reports JON CARDINELLI in Birmingham.
The Bok captain has been fiercely criticised in the wake of South Africa’s shock defeat to Japan, and deservedly so.
De Villiers was exposed on several occasions in that crucial No 12 channel. He made some poor tactical decisions over the course of the game; decisions that contributed to a humiliating and campaign-compromising loss.
On Monday, it emerged that De Villiers and the senior players had ignored instructions from the coach’s box. Meyer himself confirmed this at the team announcement on Wednesday. The Bok coach said the team needed to get back in line and play a more structured game if they hoped to beat Samoa on Saturday.
On Friday, De Villiers denied there’s been a fallout between the senior players and the coach. He said what transpired at the Brighton Community Stadium last Saturday was a case of miscommunication rather that a blatant disregard for authority.
‘It’s been a tough week,’ De Villiers said. ‘There’s been a lot of speculation by people who are trying to break this team apart. For us in the team environment, there’s been no finger pointing. We just want to fix this.
‘Make no mistake, the coach is the boss. Sometimes when the call gets passed on [to the players on the field], that message can get lost. We’ve worked hard to fix and streamline that process over the course of this week.
‘It’s all about getting the best out of the team and making the best decision for the team. Sometimes we may disagree, but there is never a blatant disregard for what we are told by the coach.’
That last sentence suggests there may indeed be some confusion within the Bok ranks. But then De Villiers went on to say the Boks need to play a smarter game against Samoa this Saturday.
‘Our discipline was poor last week, and Japan punished us. I felt we played good rugby at times. But I think we could have played smarter.
‘This week, we need to get it right tactically. It’s about making the right tactical decisions, whether it’s to attack the space by running into it or putting in the kick.’
Meyer has delivered an ultimatum to players like De Villiers and Victor Matfield, who did not perform to the required standard against Japan. If De Villiers fails again, he is likely to be dropped from the starting side.
On Friday, De Villiers admitted that he was playing for his position.
‘I have to show that I deserve my place,’ he said. ‘I thought the coach might drop me [ahead of the Samoa match]. I’m aware of the criticism he got for selecting me, and I’m grateful for another opportunity.
‘I want this team to do well, whether I’m in the starting side, on the bench, or in the stands. This week I will be on the field, and I know I need to put up my hand.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images