Not The Most Amazing Coachby Andy Davis / 30.06.2009
Let’s be honest for a minute here, Peter De Villiers is not a world class rugby coach. Yes, yes, pipe down all you new dispensation, upwards-managing, pro social engineering, politically-correct arselickers. And stop applauding over there you overzealous, unreformed white racist fucks. This is not about race. This is about talent. I’d love to see a black man, or woman, rise to the position of Springbok rugby coach on merit alone. Imagine a black rugby messiah, with the mental agility of Steve Biko, the oratory skills and diplomatic finesse of Mandela and the strategic nous and ruthless streak of Shaka Zulu… but let’s just admit that Peter De Villiers is not that guy. Hell Jake White wasn’t that guy either.
The truth is Peter De Villiers would struggle to land a job coaching a good Kiwi, French, Australian or British high provincial team. He might stand a chance of finding gainful employment in Canadian rugby, but he certainly should not be in charge of the most talented crop of rugby players to emerge in several generations of South African rugby. But he is, because of some misguided thinking that the vast majority of South Africans care more about the colour of the coach’s skin than winning test matches.
Now the trouble with piling into PDV, is that he seems like a nice bloke. A funny oom you’d dig to sink a few beers with around the braai and hear some of the inside stories. He commands neither respect nor authority. I have studied the man, his team selections, bizarre substitutions, PR gaffes, that sex scandal and those edge-of-your-seat-because-he’s-about-to-utter-something-both-stiltifyingly-stupid-and-outrageously-dof press conferences. I can safely opine that his only real qualification for the job is that he has the snor of a 1970s Rhodesian maths teacher. And while such things as carefully trimmed lip hair and the right skin-tone might substitute as qualification for the political brown-nosers who run SARU, I would just like to remind everyone that the whole point of sport is to choose those with the most skill and talent available and let them compete against the very best specimens that other nations can assemble. It’s a placebo for war. It’s fucking important. It saves us from running and massacring each other with bayonets. And the coach, the general, should be selected on the same criteria of excellence. In a coach we need someone to mould all these talents into a single-minded match winning machine. A leader able to pick the right players and strategy, deflect the media’s gaze, manage the conflicting political forces and galvanise and direct the nation’s discourse in support of the team. But somewhere along the arc of recent South African history something got lost in the transition and ‘representation’ became more important than merit. We won the World Cup in 1995 and the old boere sport unified the nation. All of a sudden sport was more important than winning, it was about representation and nation-building. Window dressing soon replaced substance. And then the whole thing got muddled as old white racists and new black racists started pursuing their agendas and using rugby players as pawns. Mircaculously we seem to have come through this dark period with the brightest crop of boks in the game’s history – many of them with higher levels of melanin in their skin – all chosen on merit. Wow. And then SARU foists upon us, and them, a great big token shaped moustachioed buffoon as the coach.
We’re just saying… Twakkie and PDV separated at birth?
Now just in case you think I’m being unfair, let me state my case, in relation to this most remarkable Lions game last weekend.
1. How can you promote Schalk Burger back into the starting line-up when he has long since lost the form that propelled him to the IRB player of the year in 2006, at the expense of Heinrich Brussow, our most dangerous weapon at the breakdown and probably the best open side flanker in world rugby at the moment. And while we’re at it, let’s just destroy the myth that Schalk Burger is ‘an incredible talent’. He’s not. He’s a dirty shit who has slowly substituted his dynamic form for underhanded skullduggery and is still banking on his waning reputation from that incredible 2006 season. He was invisible for the 70 odd-minutes he played on Saturday, and he is just not the same player after breaking his neck against Scotland. And never again will be. Send him back to the wine farm with his 50 test caps and his self-congratulatory celebrity vintage.
2. The fact that Heinrich Brussow was only introduced into the side when reserve Danie ‘The Battering Horse’ Russouw staggered off on wobbly legs after clashing heads with Brian O’Driscoll. Who knows if or when Brussow would have been introduced had circumstance not forced De Villiers hand. The Boks would have lost. De Villiers is a chump. We just got lucky.
3. Adi Jacobs has been woeful all season, but our man with the moustache subbed inside centre Jean De Villiers for outside centre Jaque Fourie. All credit to Jaque Fourie for taking his opportunity, but it’s ridiculous that a player like Fourie can’t get into the starting line-up while Jacobs struggles with his form, and his defence, game after game.
4. Andries Bekker is not Bakkies Botha. No one offers the same kind of physicality as Bakkies. So swapping Bakkies for Bekker is like putting two Victor Matfield’s on the field. Only Bekker is not as good as Victor Matfield either.
5. Need I mention Ricky Januarie? What about that old one about the sex tape. And whatever happened to Luke Watson?
6. The fact that we’ve been winning test matches is a testament to how good our players are. This bunch of players have learned to win in spite of their coaches – not because of them.
Now while we can all revel in the fact that we smashed the British Lions in the most painful way possible, that we gave them hope of a win and then snuffed it out in the last second, that we won a game we really should have lost, that raw talent pipped steely logic. I am left to wonder, is this just what it’s like to support South African sports teams. Will our players always not only have to confront and overcome the opposition but their own coaching staff, the administrators and the politicians. Does that not make our victories, albeit rare, more incredible and enjoyable? Perhaps it does. There is certainly a part of me that wants to sit back and revel in this ad hoc and fortuitous victory. But another part of me yearns for the predictable, clockwork glory of the All Blacks, because we certainly have the players to win every rugby game for the next 5 years.
But it’s not as if PDV is oblivious, as he recently said, echoing Mohammed Ali, in a press conference.
“If I’m the weakest link then we are bloody strong. I’m a God-given talent. I am the best I can be. I know what I am and I don’t give a damn”.