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Not The Most Amazing Coach

Not The Most Amazing Coach

by 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.

Twakkie
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”.

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RESPONSES (23)
  1. Pauly says:

    Strong views about snor and the state of sa rugby cant fault the logic, who would you put in his place?

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  2. Andy says:

    Heyneke Meyer seems the incumbent but I reckon Nick Mallet should get his old job back. Or what about someone international, what’s Ian Mcgeecham doing after the Lions Tour?

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  3. Jason says:

    Yar, it’s Heyneke Meyer who gets my vote. If it was solely for ‘transformation reasons’ why didn’t Chester Williams make the cut? Personally I’d never heard of PDV before he was appointed.

    “It’s not clear what colour the sky is in the world the Boks coach inhabits, but it appears to be a different shade to our own.” MARC HINTON – Stuff.co.nz

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  4. Andy says:

    Reckon PDV got the nod ahead of Chester because he at least had some experience coaching the falcons and the SA U21 side

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  5. carlos says:

    what oft is felt but ne’er so well expressed…

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  6. mike says:

    Hi Andy
    Your article cuts to the heart of the matter. I don’t know of any Springbok supporter that gives a rat’s ass what colour the coach is (or the players for that matter), as long as the Springboks are winning. SARU should get a spokesman for PDV because it seems like he is doing a disservice to the proud rugby heritage (minus Straeuli’s tenure- jeez) that goes with Springbok rugby.
    I think PDV’s mettle will only be tested once the senior players start leaving the fray.
    Thanks for the article.

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  7. Andy says:

    Geez, the man just won a test series against a very competitve British and Irish Lions team and all he received was ridicule? De Villiers did well as a coach of the age group teams he coached at national level. If he were not a world class coach surely the Boks should have lost the series 3-0? South Africa always had some great talent but our record against the All Blacks, particularly over there, is woeful to say the least. Div was the first coach ever to win a test in the House of Pain – something Mallett and White can only dream about. You are singling Adi Jacobs out for criticism but fail to mention that Jean de Villiers hasnt exactly set the world alight recently. So why not make a case for a complete new midfield combination of Wynand Olivier and Jacque Fourie? Luke Watson was unimpressive in the Tests he played and there is a question mark about his ability to step up to Test level. I agree with you on Schalk though, he is seriously overrated at the moment and needs to have a good look at himself and his career. Yes, Div’s utterances most of the times are ridiculous, but that doesnt mean he is not a world class coach. His Bok record speaks for itself. Certain rugby writers are trying their best to discredit the man just because he doesn’t drink with them (like some previous Bok coaches used to) and doesnt give them exclusive stories. You say the Boks are winning because of the players’ talent. That is bullshit. Just look at our national cricket team. They were the most talented team we have fielded in a very long time and were overwhelming favourites to win the T20 tournament in England, but failed miserably. Also, the All Blacks go to the World Cup every year as favourites but cannot deliver on the promise of their talent. Why? Has that something to do with the coach maybe? Is Mickey Arthur and Graham Henry world class or not? Most South Africans dont care two hoots about what Div says, as long as the Boks are winning they are happy. I know its tough to get used to a guy who is different to the norm, but in future please try and get some balance in your articles.

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  8. Simon says:

    Nice article… syndicate it.
    🙂

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  9. tony says:

    i agree with andy . Some of you guys just want a man of a different colour , even though you keep saying colour does not matter. So whatr if he talks nonsense sometimes , many of you do too And i will defend your right to do it .

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  10. Andy Davis says:

    Perhaps it’s unfair to udge PDV until the player exodus occurs. My point in this article is to say that with all the talent at his disposal we have scraped through games with narrow wins, when, with a good coach, we could have demolished the opposition. And therefore I reckon he’s a kak coach. Because the team has been underperforming. I suspect John Smit is doing most of the coaching. He seems to be the glue that binds this group together – along with players like Bakkies, Matfield, Juan, Fourie DP, Habana, JP etc.

    Andy is absolutely right that Jean De Villiers has been rubbish this season, but unlike Adi Jacobs, his defense has been solid. So that’s why he was not singled out. But he should have been. I would have rather played Frans Steyn at Inside centre, Jaque Fourie at Outside, Pienaar at 15 and Morne Steyn at 10. And Meisie-kind Olivier on the bench. That would have been interesting.

    PDV’s outrageous statements have not helped his cause. Already it looks like he’s going to be sanctioned by the IRB for his comments on eye-gouging. And i reckon Schalk will get an extended ban on appeal from the IRB, too. PDV just doesn’t seem to be fully in control of the stuff that he says. And that indicates, to me at least, that he might not be fully in control of his coaching and other key decision making functions…

    Time will tell. And if the winning continues, and PDV proves me wrong, I’ll retract this story, publicly and happily. Until then I take as much pleasure in these wins as possible.

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  11. Frans says:

    I do agree with you except for the players positions in the back line, my opinion is Morne Steyn(10), jean de villiers inside centre, jaque fourie outside centre and kirshner @ fullback, frans steyn fumbles to easily and is really kak when kicking under pressure.

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  12. rantboy says:

    “Some of you guys just want a man of a different colour , even though you keep saying colour does not matter” – nice mind-reading there, tony. And the guys who want Div in the job BECAUSE of his colour – is theirs somehow a nobler aspiration?
    As for us all talking k@k sometimes, agreed – but I submit there’s a difference between spouting nonsense in the pub, or on a site like this, and doing the same at an official press conference where you come close to contradicting the decisions of the duly appointed body whose job is to interpret the laws of the game and punish foul play. Players who vloek the ref, no matter how blind he might be, get penalised another ten yards – why should Div be any different?

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  13. Izo says:

    What games games did we scrape by that we should have won by 40 points. Even before the World Cup we were scraping games not winning them by big margins. When was this supposed to happen and how? New Zealand still had very good players and Australia had the best coach in the world Robbie Dean. Why are you shifting the goal posts for this coach? When is more enough? I am happy as long as we are winning. The player exodus will give you what I already know and that P Dev is a good coach and has a good vision of how this game should played. Even Jake White was his assistnat at some point when he was coaching age group rigby dude.

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  14. Izo says:

    1.Schalk Burger was a 49 test veteran at the time and would have started if it wasnt for the injury. This game was against the BIL and you would not start a rookie in these games whils t still trying to win them. The poms came with a game plan to beat us physically and they dont come as physical as Bakkies and Schalk. There is alot of merit for starting Burger, he f#%$d up but what if he didnt and was at his best when games are physical?

    2. The whole week the boks said that Schalk would not finish the game and that Brussow was on the bench as his replacement. Danie got injured in the 61st minute when Brussow came on. Do you know what the plan was for Brussow? Have you asked when they intended bringing him on? Most substitutions are made around the 60 minute mark and i think you should research more.

    3. Adi Jacobs has played at 12 and 13 for for the Sharks, his skills are that he can play both positions. Did you watch his contribtution to the game? He was involved in 2 of the tries on the afternoon. He tackled manfully and gave nothing away. Jacque Fourie is a great player but so is Adi. You should be asking what sort of centre the coach wants and in what game plan? again, reasearch

    4. Like you said, no one gives that physicality and you are not going to find that anywhere by your assertion. Andries Bekker is a totally different player to Bakkies. He is influential in his own right. The game later on becomes less physical and more athletic, its no longer mostly about the forward grunt but more about athleticism. Bakkies does not play full games for the Bulls which means to me that they also look for more of a runner in second half but no one criticizes the Bulls for that.

    5. Mentioning the sex tape shows me that you are just out to see all the negative things about the coach…sies on you for this. Yes Januarie is off form but so is Bismarck who had a shoddy season fort he Sharks

    6. these players won the World Cup for their coach Jake White, they did everything he told them to do. Now, they run the coaching sessions and call the plays. They even practice the plays by themselves whilst their coaches chill and talk to the journalists. They call substitutions and and select the teams to play. They also know when someone is going to be injured and dosomething stupid and paln who to put in when and how. Yes the coach does absolutely nothing huh??

    Have you been to any Bok training sessions? Have you asked any player what the input of the coach is at practice? Have you done any actual research and found out anything concrete? Its nonsense that you guys get paid for watching tv and writing what first comes out of your thumb.

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  15. Andy says:

    Hey Izo, that’s a well argued defense. Perhaps you could get a job as the boks media manager.

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  16. djf says:

    Coaches of national teams are not just supposed to win matches, they are also spokespeople and role models for the nation as a whole. In this second aspect, de Villiers is nothing short of a National Embarassment. Recent success has gone to his head and he has shown a total lack of grace in his gestures and behavior towards the Lions, the press and the public. Someone needs to educate this man in the art of appropriate behavior, and quickly!

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  17. Izo says:

    Im sorry but I think you talking nonsense. You go sit there and take the abuse from these journos. ASking the same question just to get you to say something. Clearly they are there with an agenda. A national embarassment he is not, he is a coach with a 75% winning percentage.

    What do you have to say about all the nonsense that Gatland has been saying? Probably nothing as you dont have anything against him…

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  18. DP says:

    Izo’s on the right track…. PDV is producing the goods. You can’t argue that the strength of the players have gotten him through… bad coaching is very capable of destroying talent.

    As long as we’re cleaning up the Northern nations I’m happy.

    Yes – the guys public speaking is terrible but if you look back through rugby history you’ll find it littered with bizarre comment and strange practice. What about Doc Craven?

    The media also has to take some responsability for whipping up a circus…

    Besides : I won’t hear a bad word said about Adi Jacobs.

    Maybe it’s time the 70s snor made a comeback.

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  19. Andy says:

    Izo and DP – i was really hoping to be able to eat my words this morning – but my opinion remains unchanged. PDV is a sub-standard coach. Yesterday we got thumped by an under-strength Lions team, not because the Springboks on the paddock were inferior players. No we got drubbed because we didn’t have a strategy beyond running the ball up the middle through Wynand Olivier and Juan Smith and were outplayed in every department of the game. Yesterday’s display was so atrocious we never once looked capable of winning. It was PDV who ‘master-minded’ the game plan and chose 10 new players for the team – when he only really needed to make 3 or 4 substitutions. And ultimately it must be PDV who takes responsibility.

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  20. djf says:

    You think that there aren’t other people in the spotlight who don’t get pressured and hounded by the media?? However, very few of them say the abusive and idiotic things that come out of de Villers’ mouth. It makes the whole country look bad when we hold someone like that up as a spokesperson for something that many of us hold dear. Is there any way that we can get him to just coach the team and refrain from saying anything in public??

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  21. Tones says:

    Hey Guys! What you all saying NOW!

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  22. kenneth says:

    this is utter rubbish!! PDV is probably one of the most qualified coaches that we have ever had. he (PDV) has a level 3 IRB coaching certificate that he obtained in Wales. PDV took a lowly Falcons outfit all the way to the semifinals of the Currie Cup and the Falcons who have now been relegated to the B division would only dream of repeating such an achievement. PDV’s bok side beat the all blacks in new zealand and the same team under Jake White could not achieve the same feat. Andy Davis, your knowledge of what is good for SA rugby is seriously useless. Thanks, hopefully i wont be hearing from you anytime soon.

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  23. kenneth says:

    By the way, Burger was IRB player of the year in 2004 and not 2006!! Can we get our facts right before we go on a misguided tangent!!!

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