GRANT BALL says that Regan Hoskins’ failure to discipline Peter de Villiers has led to the situation where South Africa is the joke of the rugby world.
When contacted by keo.co.za for his reaction to De Villiers’ latest media embarrassment, Hoskins said he wasn’t available for comment and wouldn’t be in future. This from the president of Saru.
Reports suggest Hoskins has been told by the government – who are already upset with De Villiers for not picking more black players during his tenure as originally promised - to deal with the Bok coach. The official line is that the pending meeting between Hoskins and De Villiers won’t be a disciplinary hearing, but a less formal ‘heart to heart’.
It’s a similar scenario to what happened after last year’s British & Irish Lions series, where the pair had a discussion over De Villiers’s embarrassing media utterances including the racist analogy about Ricky Januarie and the ‘black mechanic/white mechanic’. After that ‘heart to heart’, Hoskins assured Saru’s stakeholders that De Villiers would refrain from this kind of discourse.
However, De Villiers’ first press conference of the 2009 Tri-Nations suggested not much had changed. De Villiers said he wouldn’t be muzzled, he said he was the boss, an outburst that showed what he thought of Hoskins and their previous discussion.
De Villiers must take responsibility for his own actions, but the Saru president is also culpable for the current situation. It should never have got to this point. A strong leader would have set De Villiers straight.
Throughout the 2009 Lions series, De Villiers was out of control. After just one success in the 2010 Tri-Nations, and De Villiers is his own worst enemy again. No other coach would still have a job, yet Saru has allowed De Villiers to continue.
There have been double standards in the handling of De Villiers when it comes to results as well. In 2006, four consecutive Tri-Nations defeats saw Jake White summoned to a meeting in Johannesburg from the Bok camp in Rustenburg, where they were preparing for an All Blacks Test.
White had to listen to all the Bok coaches since Ian McIntosh, with the exception of Kitch Christie (who had passed away) and Andre Markgraaff. The plan was to ‘plot the way forward’ for the Boks. Conversely, De Villiers wasn’t summoned to any meeting with former Bok coaches after the Soccer City fixture, which was also his side’s fourth Tri-Nations loss in a row.
Before the final Test of the 2006 European tour, White was brought home for an emergency meeting with his employers. This is the kind of treatment White had to endure, while De Villiers hasn’t been as controlled.
On his reappointment, Hoskins boasted how his tenure as president produced little controversy. Has no one in the passages of Saru been listening to De Villiers’s rants over the past three years? What must the new sponsors Absa think? Are they happy to be associated with such a loose cannon?
Hoskins has had the chance before, but this is a defining moment. He needs to show some proper leadership and actually make a decision. He cannot condone De Villiers’s public backing of a man up for murder, and after repeated offences, the disciplinary action for De Villiers should be dismissal. If Hoskins decides on any other course of action, then he’s failed South African rugby again.