John Smit wants reporters to stick to rugby and stop kicking up a fuss about the Bees Roux trial. Perhaps he should pass on the message to Peter de Villiers.
Without provocation, De Villiers made an outrageous statement on Monday claiming the Boks were fully behind Roux, the Blue Bulls player charged with the murder of a Tshwane policeman.
The statement has angered a lot of people, not least of all De Villiers’ employers at the South African Rugby Union. It’s also caused a stir among those close to the deceased.
According to News24, at a memorial service for Ntshimane Johannes Mogale, the Tshwane metro police regional director Moloko Racheku said he shuddered when the Springboks announced that they were 100% behind Roux.
De Villiers said the team supported the player, not the deed, but how the situation developed. He never once offered the team’s condolences to the family members, who are ironically, big Springbok supporters. That there is an ongoing investigation into the case is irrelevant. De Villiers should have shown some tact.
Smit has always been the more sensible and diplomatic of the Boks’ coach-captain duo, but brushed the question aside on Friday. Asked for clarification on whether the Boks had discussed the matter and whether they are fully behind Roux, he said: ‘Stick to rugby. I know it’s hard for you guys, but stick to rugby’.
It was a difficult situation for Smit. If he echoed De Villiers’ statement, he would have made the same mistake as his coach. If he said the Boks weren’t behind Roux, he would have contradicted De Villiers and confirmed widespread belief that the national coach is a loose cannon.
Smit only has his coach to blame for putting him in that situation. De Villiers is in trouble for those comments and will be ‘assessed’ by Saru in the coming days, but his statement about Roux was made as the team’s spokesman. His careless comments have ensured the Boks look as bad as he does.
By Jon Cardinelli, in Bloemfontein