Peter de Villiers has quit after coaching the Springboks to a World Cup quarter-final defeat in Wellington.
De Villiers’ contract has expired and after a four year tenure marked by controversy and criticism, he will opt not to put forward his name as a candidate for the now vacant post.
‘Its been a brilliant journey and one that none of you [the media] can take away from me,’ he said. ‘There’s a time to come and a time to go. The journey is over.
‘I enjoyed it. I was in a privileged position to be able to contribute to my country. South African rugby is in a good state and will move forward after this.’
Asked how he wanted to be remembered, De Villiers said: ‘As the best me I could be.’
De Villiers ends his career with a 63% success rate, winning 30 of his 48 Tests. However, measured against the best in the world he has struggled. With the defeat in Wellington this evening his record against Australia dipped to four wins from 12, while he has won just five from 11 against the All Blacks.
De Villiers enjoyed the bulk of his success in 2009, winning a series against the British & Irish Lions, as well as the Tri-Nations. However, outside of that the Springboks have struggled, this with arguably the finest generation of players in decades at his disposal.
His loyalty to captain John Smit, despite the rise of the incomparable Bismarck du Plessis, has elicited severe criticism. He sought out Smit in 2008 while the Test veteran was contracted to French outfit Clermont, offering him the captaincy, then persisting with him despite Smit touching the ceiling of his potential in 2009.
Smit was liberal in his praise of De Villiers. ‘We’ve had a good four years. He isn’t a coach in the usual mould but one we’ve thoroughly enjoyed,’ Smit said. ‘He has given us leeway and space and tightened the reigns when he needed to. He is a great man and coach.’
De Villiers was appointed ahead of superior candidates, most notably Heyneke Meyer, in 2008, South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins citing ‘reasons other than rugby credentials’ as the reason for the decision.
There isn’t a clear favourite for the post. Meyer has signed a long-term deal with the Bulls as their director of rugby and has indicated repeatedly to this website that he isn’t considering applying for the job. The Stormers duo of Rassie Erasmus and Allistair Coetzee are expected to toss their names into the hat, while others like Lions coach John Mitchell and former Saracens head Brendan Venter have been mentioned as possible candidates.
By Ryan Vrede, in Wellington.