Victor Matfield has conceded the senior players determined how South Africa played in the last four years – and not the coach Peter de Villiers.
Matfield, who has retired from rugby, said he left South Africa for France because of De Villiers’s appointment but after meeting with him decided he wanted to work with him.
Matfield, is quoted on Rugby365.com, as saying for De Villiers to have wanted to change he would have had to drop the senior players – and they told him they had a certain mindset and that is how they believed they could be successful at the 2011 World Cup.
The reality is they weren’t, regardless of the small margins in winning and defeat.
Matfield praised De Villiers for his flexibility and for listening to the senior players and that they persuaded him about the route the Boks needed to take.
‘I was in France when he got the job – I went to France because he got the job, said Matfield. ‘But I came back after spending one hour with him. I decided: ‘This is a guy I’d love to work with’. I’m very happy about my decision. He’s an unbelievable guy and I’ve just got respect for him.
‘I think when he came in he got in with a lot of senior players that had a style in their head that they wanted to play,” he said. I don’t think any coach would have been able to change their mind, [except] maybe if he dropped 80 percent of the guys they could.
‘He [De Villiers] accepted that, he worked with that, he always gave everything we wanted, he created an unbelievable environment for us to perform in. We had a great four years with him.’
The reality is the Boks are out of the World Cup at the quarter-finals and finished last in the Tri Nations in 2011.