In a surreal press conference, Peter de Villiers continued to deny Schalk Burger was guilty of eye gouging and delivered some of his most sensational rubbish ever.
De Villiers on Monday held court with a room full of journalists, the majority of those from the foreign press, and proceeded to spit the most ridiculous nonsense, and display an incredibly pompous and dismissive attitude, particularly towards the foreign contingent. For those present it was obvious that he has a very low opinion of them.
The questioning predictably centred around Burger’s eight-week ban for eye gouging Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald, an issue that the Springbok media team tried to dodge by saying that they would only comment after they had received an official report on the incident. You didn’t need an official report to know that Burger is unbelievably lucky not to receive a longer ban.
On Saturday De Villiers left the press incredulous by saying that Burger didn’t deserve a yellow card for the incident, let alone a citing. On Monday the coach had an opportunity to retract that ludicrous statement and concede that he was wrong. Yet he remained resolute in his flawed view.
‘I stand by Schalk, I’m still convinced he didn’t do it,’ he told keo.co.za. ‘When you watch the footage closely and if you know the nature of Schalk, you’ll know that he will never go to those measures to impose himself. Schalk certainly didn’t do anything on purpose. He watched the TV footage and was taken aback himself.
‘I am against anything that is against the spirit of the game. If we want to eye gouge lions, we’ll go down to the bushveld and eye gouge them there, then see if they can haul us in.’
When one of the travelling pressmen continued the line of questioning, De Villiers snapped, ‘Some of us seem to have a hearing problem. We’re waiting for the official report and we’ll see what that says. If they find him guilty of something we’ll abide by that decision.
‘I’m not ducking the issue, I’m working within a system. I’m not like you [the media] who don’t work within a system.’
De Villiers said he doesn’t condone foul play [the likes of which Burger was clearly guilty of], yet continued to inadvertently justify the incident.
‘Rugby is a contact sport and so is dancing,’ he said. ‘If you guys [the media] were clued up you’d know that there were so many incidents that we could have complained about, like the incident where a Lions player maliciously jumped into one of ours with their shoulder.
‘But we didn’t do it because this is a contact sport. If you are going to complain about every incident we might as well go to a ballet shop and all get tutus.’
Despite the series victory, there is a widely held view that the Springboks beat the Lions despite of their coach and not because of him. De Villiers’ rebuttal, ‘Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I don’t react to opinion, I react to fact,’ he said.
‘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.’
He continued by saying he didn’t read the papers, and therefore didn’t know how he was perceived in the media.
‘I don’t care. I don’t take an interest in your job, but I’m glad you take an interest in mine.’
Any preceding Springbok coach would have been seriously taken to task by the administration, but De Villiers gives one the impression, through his attitude and unbridled hogwash that he delivered on Monday, that he believes he is a law unto himself.
The reality is that he was an embarrassment to South African rugby, as he was when he offered his racially loaded views relating to Ricky Januarie, for which he will have to answer to the president’s council.
The same president’s council who appointed him based on his skin colour and not his rugby credentials (they confirmed this themselves when announcing his appointment), are now pointing the finger at him when they should be held partly accountable for the perception he is creating of himself, and by association, the Springboks, and South Africans in general.
De Villiers considers himself to be an ambassador for South Africa. He has said so on numerous occasions. But he is doing anything but creating a favourable impression of this country.
He needs to be reined in immediately. Word from inside the Springbok camp is that he just refuses to listen to any advice offered by his media managers, and as a result he is destroying any credibility he might have left.
Today he was a disgrace and he’s single-handedly detracted from the wonderful achievement of winning a Lions series. Hopefully it’s the last time we’ll have to endure a senseless rant like this from De Villiers. Don’t hold your breath though.
By Ryan Vrede, Johannesburg