GRANT BALL writes that Peter de Villiers’ comment that the Springboks are preparing for a game against Tonga at next year’s World Cup shows how prepared he really is.
De Villiers believes all the structures are in place to mount a World Cup title defence and to deflect attention from their poor results over the past year. He’s said his side must be judged on that tournament. But on live television on Thursday, on Boots and All‘s celebratory episode of one year until the global showpiece starts, De Villiers said the Boks were expecting tough games from Tonga and Fiji, with the former not even in their group.
Ignorance and arrogance have been two of the trademarks of the De Villiers tenure, and this remark is the latest to highlight how confident Bok supporters should be regarding the knowledge of their coach. Forget about the crass political and racist remarks he’s uttered over the last two and half years, but here was a chance to talk rugby and inspire some confidence. Unforgivably for the national coach, he doesn’t know that the Boks are playing Samoa in their final group match, and not Tonga (who will play in the World Cup opener against the All Blacks).
Even though De Villiers spends little time preparing the side, all he has to do is remember that the Boks are playing four countries at next year’s World Cup – Wales, Fiji, Samoa and Namibia. We wonder why he says so many silly things, such as being mystified as to why the Boks lost five of six Tri-Nations matches this year and prefers to blame the refs for those defeats, but it all comes down to one thing: he doesn’t know enough about the game to comment articulately.
Some blame his media mistakes on him not speaking Afrikaans, but confusing Tonga and Samoa isn’t a language issue. Other supporters may blame Thursday’s gaffe on him being nervous, but if it was an honest mistake he could’ve corrected himself. Later this month Saru will conduct a review of the Boks’ poor results and De Villiers’ comments, and this latest remark should also be brought up.
There’s no way any of the assessors can confidently say that De Villiers is the correct man for the job. From a rugby perspective he’s out of his league, and from a public relations perspective there will be some more disastrous moments if De Villiers makes it to the World Cup, which is looking increasingly likely. The British, Australian and New Zealand media, who have shared heated exchanges with De Villiers in the past, will be eager to give him a grilling this time next year. With De Villiers failing to handle them in the past, expect that to continue.
De Villiers’ latest gaffe is also sure to be remembered by the Samoans, and their coaching staff will have some extra ammunition to fire up the players before next year’s 30 September clash.