Peter de Villiers deserves another crack at a coaching job in South African rugby and the Southern Kings gig might just be the perfect fit, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
Peter de Villiers’ tenure as Springbok coach was a big shock to the South African rugby system. He was brash, loud and had some of the best media conferences in the history of the game – anywhere.
‘We are very organised at the moment. We do not want to become a fruit salad,’ he said after winning the Tri-Nations title in 2009.
But there was more to De Villiers than just odd one-liners about fruit salad, backyard mechanics and tutus. De Villiers has one of the best records as Springbok coach and took the national team to the top of the rugby pile in 2009.
He masterminded the Boks’ 2-1 series victory over the British & Irish Lions (the last coach to beat the Lions), and followed that up with a brilliant Tri-Nations campaign, with the South Africans claiming three successive victories over the All Blacks. In fact, during his four-year tenure, the Paarl-born coach actually beat the All Blacks five times, more than any other Springbok boss since 1992.
De Villiers was praised for his inclusive style of coaching. Victor Matfield and John Smit hailed De Villiers as a top man-manager. He gave his players the responsibility on the field, but also took a lot of pressure on himself with his entertaining quotes at the media conferences.
But De Villiers also had his detractors, with many people believing that the ‘players coached themselves’ and that he ‘inherited Jake White’s 2007 World Cup-winning team’. In a recent extract from Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira’s upcoming book, the Springbok prop suggested his ‘methods and approach didn’t really work with the Springboks’.
‘It’s sad that you won’t hear the same stuff from Victor [Matfield] or John [Smit] about me … All those guys, Bryan Habana – you won’t hear the same stuff about me. It is sad that he [Mtawarira] would say that,’ was De Villiers’ response in a recent radio interview.
‘Everybody talks about the team we inherited from Jake White. Eighty percent of that team, I coached either at U19 or U21. So, if we go that route, he inherited that from us.
‘If you look at the records that we broke with those players, when I took them over, especially in New Zealand and all around the world – if I used his players better than what he could use them, then there must be something that I did right.’
But the fact of the matter is the man who was in charge of that all-conquering team hasn’t been able to find a job in South African top-flight rugby since he vacated the Bok job after their quarter-final exit at the 2011 World Cup.
De Villiers has essentially been in the rugby wilderness, with his only meaningful gig over the last few years coming with the Zimbabwean national team.
In the meantime, South Africa’s Vodacom Super Rugby teams have been coached by various mediocre coaches – essentially assistant coaches – with lesser credentials than De Villiers, who once stated that SA Rugby was ‘blocking him and paid Boland R2-million not to appoint him as their coach’.
Whatever your opinion of De Villiers may be – his methods or his quotes – we can’t deny that he has been one of the best Bok coaches, with Richie McCaw saying that his team was the most difficult international side he faced during his career.
It’s time for De Villiers to get back in the big game, and the Southern Kings’ head coach job is the right fit for him at this point in time after he was added to the shortlist for the job.
He has coached in the region before when he was in charge of the now defunct Southern Spears, while his non-racial rugby background will also assist him to unearth and properly use the talent in the cradle of black rugby.
It is understood that the Kings actually approached De Villiers to apply for the job, although former Cheetahs boss Rory Duncan is also in the mix.
But De Villiers has got the credentials and the pedigree. To throw away a guy who has beaten the All Blacks five times during his tenure is sacrilege. His experience doesn’t grow on trees.
The Kings don’t have to look any further than De Villiers for that job.
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