John Scott Masthead
May 31 2012 at 11:06

Please bring back former Springbok rugby coach Peter de Villiers, otherwise known as Snor.

His biography is a wonderful reminder how colourful rugby was under his reign, even if we did howl with despairing anguish every time one of his men kicked the ball away, as if it were a burning coal, into the hands of a grateful opposition.

His successor, Heyneke Meyer, is no doubt a worthy chap, but also boring. I bet nobody finds him interesting enough to allege his sexual activities have been recorded on tape, either in or out of a car.

Whereas Peter stirred up the strongest emotions, even in placid types like me. One such occasion was after the Wallabies walloped the Boks, and Div declared that “the only place we lost tonight was on the scoreboard”.

All he wanted to do was cheer everyone up, though he did concede “you feel better after winning”.

Probably his most endearing trait was his inability to be diplomatic. He didn’t just call a spade a spade. It was a #@&$% shovel with knobs on. The sports administrators and politicians couldn’t handle someone who gave it to them straight, and dropped him like a hot potato.

ANC MPs complained that De Villiers clearly had no respect for the then minister of sport, Makhenkesi Stofile, but did anybody? Even President Jacob Zuma thought Stofile would be better employed sitting in Berlin as ambassador to Germany. Stofile was reported as saying: “He’s a nice young man but he should watch his mouth.”

Thank goodness the nice young man didn’t. He monitored his mouth for nobody. There aren’t many of those around.

He resisted political pressure to put Luke Watson, son of Cheeky, in the team. I would have, too. Why make a man wear a Springbok jersey on which he said he felt like vomiting?

And nobody spoke to referees like Snor did. As everyone knows, it’s the refs who stop us achieving famous victories, apart from our playing like carthorses and kicking possession away. So when he came face to face with the condescending International Rugby Board referee chief Paddy O’Brien for the first time, he said: “You know, Paddy, ever since my school days it has been a dream of mine to meet God. I now feel like that dream has come true. I feel God is finally in the same room as me.”

Even a good, plain-speaking Christian like Div realised that telling O’Brien he acted like God was going darem too far, conceding “it probably wasn’t the best approach”. But that didn’t stop him advising O’Brien to go and drink beer with other officials, because that seemed to be his main purpose for the visit.

It was then that the Irishman recognised he was dealing with no ordinary oke, became conciliatory, and proposed they sit down and talk.

He also had “a big fight” with another Irish referee, Alain Rolland, and counted 47 mistakes made by New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence during that infamous World Cup loss against Australia. De Villiers won more encounters against referees than tests won by his team.

My guess is that no one was happier than the international panel of referees when his contract expired.

He said once: “I am going to pull a rat out of the hat.”

A man who can say and do things like that shouldn’t be lost to South African rugby.



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