The Irish media have wasted no time in grilling Springbok team manager Zola Yeye on his rumoured rift with coach Jake White.
White missed the press conference yesterday and left Yeye to field questions from the media.
They asked him whether a statement he made during this year’s Vodacom Tri-Nations in which he said: “What I see is a confused team that is being coached by a confused coach”, had had a negative effect on his relationship with White.
“There is nothing wrong with criticism because if you love something you have to criticise it because you want it to be good,” he told the Irish Times.
“That’s why you have to talk about it. That’s why I said what I said then. I said it in high spirits and in passion because I’ve got the interests of the team at heart. I didn’t say it maliciously.”
He continued by saying that their relationship was “solid” and “impeccable”.
“Remember life is about conversations and partnership,” he explained. “You cannot do anything if you do not have conversations and partnership. You create a dialogue with somebody. You create a chemistry that sustains you and it shows within the team. Together with Jake this team is singing from the same hymn sheet.
“Our role is to create an environment to place this team as number one in the world and also win the World Cup in 2007. We want to start with beating Ireland on Saturday.”
Yeye was full of praise for the Irish, citing their Triple Crown success and a solid backline and “mobile” forwards as a reason the Boks would have to be at their very best at Lansdowne Road.
The Boks famously lost there in 2004, a controversial try by Ronan O’Gara sealing a 17-12 win for the hosts.
Asked whether John Smit, who on the assumed agreement of referee Paul Honiss, had turned to warn his side about further infringements, allowing O’Gara to score untouched after a quick tap, had grown as a leader, Yeye said he was sure he had.
“Our captain was a young captain then,” smiled Yeye. “He will have 60 caps and be the most capped captain (equalling Gary Teichman on 36) this Saturday so it is a milestone for him. Coming from that tour and that match he was young and green then. It’s quite important that we have matured from that experience.”