CAPE TOWN – The only statement Tendai Mtawarira should be focused on making in 2019 is locking down the Springbok loosehead position instead of discrediting Peter de Villiers.
In extracts from his book, Beast - which was set to be released on July 1 - Mtawarira wrote that De Villiers was probably “lucky that a very good group of players was handed over to him”, that his “methods didn’t really work”, and that the team “could operate on its own steam”. He also wrote that “most of the work was done by the players, with Dick (Muir) and (Gary) Gold (Bok assistant coaches) very influential.”
Pan Macmillan - the publishers of the book - have since released a statement saying Mtawarira’s words “need to be taken in context” and that the book will now only be released later this year.
What ‘context’ - other than what was made so unmistakably clear - is there to be taken from those words?
Hey guys a lot has been said/insinuated the last few days regarding my soon to be released book.
What’s also clear is that what De Villiers achieved with the Springboks will probably forever be attributed to his predecessor, his assistants, the leadership group, the players, the sprinklers and the guys who get the white lines ready ahead of a match.
Nevermind the fact that no Springbok coach since the dawn of professionalism has beaten the All Blacks more times than him. Nevermind that Series win over the British & Irish Lions in 2009. Guess we shouldn’t even be surprised by the perpetual attempts at nullifying that success anymore.
What I’d like Mtawarira and others who think like him to clarify, though, is if De Villiers’ approach didn’t work, how did he get the team to do what they did? Because if we’re really going to go down the it-was-Jake’s-team road, how come De Villiers used that team to such effect and achieve wins White didn’t?
Also, if De Villiers hadn’t done what he did with the Springboks, would we even be having these discussions, or is his success just too uncomfortable and unfathomable for some?
We always hear about how he “inherited” that team, but I’m pretty sure that if De Villiers had come in and made a lot of changes, there’d also have been a lot of criticism spewed, especially if such an approach backfired.
De Villiers’ stats are the number that won’t easily get attention. And if they do, it will be partnered with the type of nonsense Mtawarira wrote. And wasting time on entertaining those who refuse to give credit is probably pointless.
After all, credit is only given when it fits a certain profile, especially in coaching, and mitigating factors are only applied to some (we didn’t see the majority of the South African rugby population coming out in defence of Allister Coetzee when he failed after he had to make do with the limitations that were imposed when he was Bok coach).
Again, Peter de Villiers’ Springbok stats aren’t the numbers that will easily get the praise it deserves. And even if it is, a “but” is almost guaranteed to accompany the praise.
But here are some stats “Beast” best focus on instead of spending time on the damage control.
Bulls loosehead Lizo Gqoboka has been a standout this season and has made 407 metres from 87 carries, seven linebreaks and 17 tackle busts this season. His tackle count has also been superb. Combine that with his top scrummaging, and you have a front-of-the-line World Cup candidate.
There are some things experience can’t make up for. And “Beast” should rather worry about that.