PRETORIA - He was often dismissed as the jester of the rugby world but former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers believes that Saru is living in a fool’s paradise and that Springbok rugby has gone backwards.
De Villiers, who has been recently appointed coach of Zimbabwe, was the last Springbok coach to win the then Tri-Nations and to beat the All Blacks in their own backyard, while also guiding the side to a series win against the British and Irish Lions.
It was under De Villiers that the Springboks last became the number one team in the world and he feels that the side has been on a downward spiral under former coaches Heyneke Meyer and Allister Coetzee.
“It doesn’t make me feel good because I know that my country went backwards in eight years. It is not that they have gone backwards but if you stagnate in any way in life, you will go backwards because everybody is going past you.
“And that is a worrying factor, it doesn’t make you feel good and I don’t like to read about it because I did nothing that the country can grow on it,” De Villiers said at a press conference in Johannesburg on Monday.
De Villiers was scathing in citing some of the problems that have long held back the progress of the game in South Africa and chief amongst those is Saru’s reluctance at making the game accessible to all in the country.
“If you look at rugby schools in SA that is giving us the problem because rugby players are being bought from third team. What about your late developers? If you want to select your game at international level, you have to have mass participation down there...
“There is a lot they put in place that has made the team stagnant. We are fooling ourselves too much. We don’t have the world standard. We don’t know what we need in every position and we don’t have the guys.
“We don’t know who is No 1, two, three and four and the reason why they are No 1, two, three and four. I don’t want to get into their household things because they don’t want to hear it from me. If they wanted they would have consulted me,” added De Villiers.
At the same time, De Villiers doesn’t think that the much touted ascension of Saru director of rugby Rassie Erasmus to Springbok coach will be the solution.
“I don’t know. The solution is to go back to one thing that Riaan Oberholzer and Louis Luyt put in place. A percentage of all the sponsorship money must go to development.
“There are white boys who are missing out on Springbok colours because they are not at a rugby school. I’m not talking black and white here, I’m talking about development. All of us need development.”
De Villiers also took a swipe at his successors in Meyer and Coetzee for not having spoken to him about his experiences as Springbok coach.
“It is my biggest disappointment that Allister (Coetzee) and (Meyer) never made the time to talk to me and share my experiences of how bad I was treated. Rassie came with us to the World Cup in 2011 for only four weeks and Heyneke chose to speak to Rassie,” De Villiers said.
While De Villiers has the unenviable task of breathing life back into Zimbabwe rugby and guiding them to qualification for next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, he also reiterated his belief that Saru need to get their house in order before extending an olive branch to African nations that they have neglected over the years.
De Villiers’ first game in charge will be in the Rugby Africa Gold Cup on June 16 against Morocco in Zimbabwe.