JOHANNESBURG-Former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers says he was disappointed to hear prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira’s comments regarding his tenure as South Africa national rugby coach.
Zimbabwe-born Mtawarira has claimed in his new book, Beast, that De Villiers was out of his depth as Springbok coach when he occupied the role between 2008 and 2011.
Speaking on the Marawa Sports Worldwide show on Radio 2000 on Tuesday evening, De Villiers said he had gone out of his way to get the Zimbabwe-born Mtawarira selected for the Boks.
“If you look at how I fought to actually get him citizenship in South Africa, and how I fought to get him to be selected for this team, and how I fought for his team-mates to accept him for who he was . . . It’s sad to listen and see this kind of stuff,” De Villiers said.
“But then again, I understand it. I do understand that we allow ourselves to be controlled by either outside forces, or money, or power and all those kinds of things.
“So yes . . . I just hope for him to get well soon (Mtawarira is currently sidelined with injury, so that he can actually fight for a place in the World Cup (squad).” De Villiers added that a few members of the Boks team weren’t happy Mtawarira was selected.
“He was a No. 8 he had some ball-sense . . . very quiet – you couldn’t use him as part of your senior group because he had that mentality of ‘submissiveness’, if you can call it that, coming from Zimbabwe. They always… (think) everybody else is better than them. “Some players weren’t actually happy that he was there, but I could see something in him. I could see that there’s a lot of potential that we have to fulfil. It took hard work and belief to get him there.”
In an extract from the book, Mtawarira wrote: “He was a fantastic coach of the Junior Springboks, but I think at the high level he was probably lucky that a very good group of players was handed over to him.”
Mtawarira was referring to the fact that De Villiers had inherited Jake White’s 2007 World Cup winning team with senior players like Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez, Schalk Burger, John Smit, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen ruling the roost. Mtawarira added: “His methods and approach didn’t really work with the Springboks, and as players we had to be careful what we said to the media. What you said would get back to Peter and affect your place in the team. The media did not like Peter and thought he was a bit of a clown.
“There’s no doubt that he was happy to be at the forefront of a team that could operate on its own steam. Most of the work was done by the players, with (assistant coaches) Dick (Muir) and (Gary) Gold very influential.” After a backlash over the comments, Mtawarira released a statement along with the book’s publishers where they clarified the statements regarding De Villiers. Mtawarira says his comments on de Villiers need to be taken in context.
The statement from the Bok prop’s publishers reads: “The “Beast” documents his relationships as they are – multi-dimensional – and while he may be critical regarding some aspects regarding key figures throughout his life, he also shares his experiences with those same individuals that challenge him, and those that built him up and nurtured him throughout his career.
“A few commentators who have had pre-launch access to the book have honed in on one paragraph, that they interpret as critical of former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers. However, when they focus on a short extract, they fail to provide context within the greater journey of the rugby player.
“It is disappointing that commentators have failed to look comprehensively at the full story, which details the support De Villiers has given to Mtawarira over the years and the respect Mtawarira has for the man who helped him on his Springbok journey.”
Mtawarira added in the statement: “Peter was the coach who first picked me for the Springboks, and he stood by me through all the trouble with the Minister of Sport, so I’m really grateful to him.” -Sport24.
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