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Luke 'wasn't a good team man'

Sun, 27 May 2012 21:15
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But it quickly became apparent to me that he wasn't a good team man when he wasn't playing as the captain.
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Former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers should not be expecting any Christmas cards or dinner invitations from the Watsons in Port Elizabeth.

In the second instalment of our review of his autobiography: POLITICALLY INCORRECT, we bring you De Villiers' views on controversial EP Kings captain Luke Watson.

We also delve deeper into the fall-out between De Villiers and his former ally, Cheeky Watson - the father of Luke.

The former Bok coach is certainly not pulling any punches in this book, co-written by Gavin Rich.

De Villiers revealed that he "really respected" Luke Watson as a young leader and saw him as a future Springbok captain.

Luke Watson first impressed him as captain of the Under-21 team coached by De Villiers.

However, he later realised what a divisive influence Watson had become, saying that he wasn't a good team man.

Watson was described by Bok captain John Smit as a "cancer" in the team.

Watson played nine of his 10 Tests under De Villiers in 2008. The other Test was the infamous outing against Samoa in 2007 - when he was forced upon Jake White and the Bok team as 'Player No.46'

But a year later he was called up by De Villiers - starting in two Tests against Wales and one against Italy. He started in only one other Test, against Argentina, playing off the bench in the Tri-Nations series.

"At the time an injury to Schalk Burger allowed me to spread my net wider at loose forward and look at other options," De Villiers said of his decision to call up Watson.

"Thus Luke Watson became part of the initial team, and he got to start in the first Test against Wales [in 2008].

"But it quickly became apparent to me that he wasn't a good team man when he wasn't playing as the captain - at least not at that stage of his career."

However, De Villiers truly believed that Watson had the potential to be a good Bok captain.

"When you come across someone like Luke, he obviously stays in your  mind, especially because I thought  he had the potential to make a great Springbok captain. But that did not mean he would be my Springbok captain. Although I envisaged Luke taking over the captaincy after John [Smit], sadly other events occurred that prevented this from happening.

"When I did bring Luke into the team at the start of my stint as Springbok coach, a lot of water had already flowed under the bridge. Luke was at a disadvantage of what had happened in the Jake era, as the players knew that he had been forced upon the team squad as player number 46."

De Villiers also revealed how Watson, who once infamously said he wanted to "puke" on the Bok jersey, became a divisive force during in 2008.

"I was disappointed with Luke when he refused to cooperate with some of the senior players when they did open themselves to him.

"On a few occasions Victor Matfield and John Smit tried to involve Luke in their team discussions. 'What do you think about that idea Luke? Do you think it would work? they would ask him. Luke would say: 'I am just here to observe'.

"His attitude made me change my mind about him."

De Villiers, in explaining why he was spending so much time discussing Luke Watson, said the Watson issue was to play a big role in fomenting some of the controversy he was to be embroiled in later and it was to lead to the dissolution of his support group of political heavyweights - which we discussed in part one of our review.

De Villiers accused Watson Snr and ANC MP Cedric Frolick of being the instigators in the infamous sex tape scandal which erupted around the head of the then Bok coach in September 2008.

It was alleged that De Villiers had been caught on video having sex with a woman in a car.

He vehemently denied the claims at the time.

De Villiers claimed in his book that Watson Snr and Frolick orchestrated the scandal to "punish" him for not selecting Watson's son, Luke.

He revealed what had happened between him and Cheeky Watson during the Tri-Nations series, leading up to sex-tape saga.

"...Cheeky was in New Zealand for the first Tri-Nations Test in Wellington and took a room on the opposite side of mine at the Duxton Hotel. Not long after he arrived, he called my room to tell me that he had been sent to New Zealand to pass on a message from the minister of sport. Apparently Makhenkesi Stofile was very unhappy with the way I was treating Cheeky's son Luke, as were other politicians back home, who were incensed because I wasn't starting with him [Luke was on the bench].

"I told Cheeky that I would not make political decisions, but my own. It did not necessarily mean that Luke would not play, but that I would be guided only by rugby decisions when I selected my team.

"When it became clear to Cheeky that I wasn't going to bow to his pressure, he packed up and flew home.

"But once back in South Africa, Cheeky started campaigning against me behind the scenes and it appeared as if Cedric was his trusted foot soldier. In no time at all [sports administrators] Butana Komphela and Asad Bhorat were criticising me in the newspapers. So I was left in little doubt that my 'friends' were now my enemies and were out to get me."

By Jan de Koning

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

POLITICALLY INCORRECT: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY
PETER DE VILLIERS WITH GAVIN RICH
ISBN (Print): 978-1-77022-421-6| ISBN (E-Book): 978-1-77022-422-3 | RRP: R220
For more information visit www.randomstruik.co.za
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