Div reveals all about Hoskins & Watson

Thu, 24 May 2012 13:40
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Love him or hate him. Peter de Villiers is a very interesting and entertaining character! Jan de Koning reviews his autobiography: POLITICALLY INCORRECT.

Love him or hate him. Peter de Villiers is a very interesting and entertaining character! This certainly comes to the fore in his autobiography: POLITICALLY INCORRECT.

In what he describes as "a pretty tempestuous ride", De Villiers reveals so much about his four years in charge of South Africa's national team, the Springboks.

As forthright as only De Villiers can be, he spares very few - including the President of the South African Rugby Union Oregan Hoskins and Eastern Province boss Cheeky Watson, who was once one of his closest allies.

Speaking about the harsh realities of growing up in the dusty streets of Paarl as a rugby-mad youngster during the height of the apartheid era and progressing to the highest job in SA rugby.

In the book De Villiers reveals his distrust for and anger towards Hoskins, who branded him a political (or affirmative action) appointment, as well as those in power at SARU who tried to manipulate him.

He also speaks about how his "propensity for doing everything my way" often got him into trouble and his own naivety.

And there is the harsh reality of the many personal agendas that drive the game in South Africa.

Or as De Villiers put it: "There were many occasions in my four-year tenure as a coach when perception did not correspond to fact."

While De Villiers addresses many issues - including his insistence that he feels New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence 'cheated' the Boks in last year's World Cup quarterfinal loss to Australia - it is his attack on the SARU boss and some other heavyweights that starts off this great read.

It all started with what the SARU President, Hoskins, said on 9 January 2008 - the day of De Villiers' appointment as Bok mentor: "I want to be honest with South Africa and say the appointment did not take into account only rugby reasons. We took ... the issue of transformation in rugby very, very seriously when we made the appointment."

Those words, De Villiers said, haunted him throughout his tenure.

"What the hell was that supposed to mean? How was I supposed to react to what he's just said?" De Villiers said in the book.

"Oregan later told me that [former Bok captain] Morné du Plessis and [business mogul] Johann Rupert had advised him on what to say. They had probably meant well, but where was the backbone you would expect in a strong leader?"

And his attack on Hoskins doesn't end there.

"I was very angry. And I was just as angry with Oregan's next statement: 'South Africa has a black coach now - that is fantastic for the game in all parts of the world.'

"With those words, Oregan permanently pigeonholed me as an affirmative action appointment. He was helping form the perceptions that would make it so difficult for me to be accepted by the rugby public, the media and other stakeholders."

He added: "The upshot of Oregan's words was that everyone perceived me to be a political appointment.

"Needless to say, Regan's statement did nothing to increase my respect for him. Nor did it quell my suspicion that the SA Rugby administrators did not want me as the Bok coach, and that they would try to force me out at the first opportunity.

"It is very difficult working for people you don't trust. This lack of trust, as well as the feeling that I never really had their support, was to direct a lot of my decision-making and behaviour over the next four years. It was also one of the major reasons for making the senior players my sole support group later on."

He also highlighted a dramatic change in Hoskins' behaviour, after the SARU boss forced Luke Watson on his predecessor Jake White, but then made an about turn on team selections when De Villiers was in charge.

He saw this as a move with sinister undertones.

"As President of SARU he had the right to do so, as he signed off the team," De Villiers writes in the book about Hoskins.

"So it came as a surprise when Oregan  publicly stated he would no longer do so [veto team selections].

"Perhaps I am being unkind to Oregan, and if I am, I am sorry, but it crossed my mind that his decision to no longer sign off the team was motivated by a hidden agenda.

"As I was most emphatically not Oregan's choice as coach, he didn't want to be held accountable if anything went wrong under my auspices."

De Villiers sees himself as a man of many merits, who strived for and deserved the highest honour in the game, pointing out the many coaching courses he attended in Wales to be of international standard.

However, he admitted there was some significance in the colour of his skin.

"Of course I recognised the significance of my appointment to the black communities - in their collective mind, I was breaking down race barriers. Although South Africa had a black President since 1994, many still considered Springbok rugby the last bastion of Afrikanerdom, an exclusive club championing white supremacy. In a previous era, a black person becoming Springbok coach was akin to a Jew taking over the running of the Gestapo."

Then there is his famous fall-out with Eastern Cape boss Cheeky Watson, one of his strongest allies, who helped De Villiers set up a committee that would help him make the right decisions.

However, it backfired badly as he had a big fall-out with the very man that played such a prominent role in getting him the job in the first place.

De Villiers said it was "with the knowledge that I had lots of enemies within SARU, that I assembled a reference or support group that I could use as my sounding board. But in choosing Cheeky [Watson] as leader of the group, I would once again expose my naivety."

The committee consisted of political heavyweights such as Watson, Butana Komphela, chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee,  on Sport and Recreation, Cedric Frolick, the Deputy Chairperson of the same committee, Asad Bhorat, the secretary of the Transformation and Ant-Racism Rugby Committee, Mike Stofile, the former rugby administrator, and Neil de Beer, the manager of  age-group teams when De Villiers coached them.

He suggested Watson was "driven by both a political and a personal agenda".

"He and his supporters wanted the Springbok emblem removed and Luke Watson included in the Springbok team."

He also dismissed the suggestion that he and Watson were long-time allies.

"Some people thought Cheeky and I went back a long way, as we had both played for SARU when the sport was still divided in the old days of apartheid. But this was not the case."

He did speak to Watson when he named his son, Luke, as captain of the South African Under-21 team in 2004. However, De Villiers said it was only in 2007 that they started talking about the Bok job for De Villiers.

By Jan de Koning

* Don't miss our remaining instalments on De Villiers' autobiography, where we bring you his views on Luke Watson, his claims of 'match fixing, the differences between the rugby set-ups in Western Province, the Blue Bulls and his tenure at the Falcons, his relationship with the players and more. We will also run a competition next week where we will give away three free copies of the book. The book will go on sale on Friday, May 25.

ISBN (Print): 978-1-77022-421-6| ISBN (E-Book): 978-1-77022-422-3 | RRP: R220
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