CAPE TOWN – So, Peter de Villiers is back in international rugby, and I think that’s good news. He was yesterday officially named as the new coach of Zimbabwe.
Following his axing as Springbok head coach after the Boks’ controversial 11-9 loss to Australia in the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Cup (with several dubious calls by referee Bryce Lawrence), De Villiers was on a seven-year "break" from Test rugby.
He did a few rugby gigs here and there, including working as a consultant with a few teams and acting as Director of Rugby at UWC, and like I said, I think his return is a great deal.
Hate him or love him, you can’t deny De Villiers’ Springbok coaching record.
People - who very clearly aren’t fans of the 60-year-old - seem to try their utmost to discredit that record that consists of winning 30 out of 48 Tests and beating the All Blacks home and away (including a record-setting win at the House of Pain). And then there's also the fact that he is the last Bok mentor to have won a British & Irish Lions series (and the Tri-Nations in the same year).
Also, his winning record against the All Blacks was 57%, and his overall Bok-coaching record 62%.
Not bad for someone who’s consistently being ridiculed as a coach, hey?
Now some are quick to point out that De Villiers “took Jake White’s already-built-up, strong, experienced yet young, team”, or that he “changed almost nothing and used the same tactics” and even “selected the same captain”.
But that’s not the point.
De Villiers could have stamped his authority and changed something that didn’t need fixing at the time, or he could have rung whatever changes just for the sake of it (I’m not justifying the Bismarck du Plessis or John Smit issue, for example; I’m just saying he could have still done much wrong with the Boks). He could have done damage. He could have failed.
But he didn’t.
Also, those very same De Villiers nay-sayers are also quick to forget who coached the SA U19s and U21s, and I’d say that calling those unsuccessful stints would be just plain ignorant. After all, if he was such a pathetic coach, he should have made a mess of that as well.
But De Villliers is done with SA Rugby, and his focus now shifts to using his coaching ability to get Zimbabwean rugby on an upward curve, and getting them to qualify for the 2019 World Cup in Japan. His new team will play a round-robin set of qualifiers for the World Cup with five other African nations - Kenya, Namibia, Morocco, Tunisia and Uganda.
So, as Peter de Villiers starts his new journey, I hope he does enough with Zimbabwean team to satisfy his own standards, because he certainly doesn’t have to prove himself to anybody else.