Springboks’ De Villiers as Coach

Springboks LogoPeter de Villiers Springboks CoachAnother move for equality

Peter de Villiers has been named as the first black coach of the rugby union world champions South African Spingboks. Coming on the heels of the World Cup victory (in October 2007), this is quite a move. And, after just having posted about Norway’s historic move to increase the presence of women on corporate boards, this news from South Africa represents another very strong statement in creating an equitable world. I add a prior post about Cheeky Watson for some background context for RSA rugby.

A controversial decision

Currently the successful coach of the Springboks’ under-21, Peter de Villiers (right courtesy of Getty Images) takes over from Jake White, who led the Springboks to victory in the World Cup. Jack White, whose contract expired at the end of 2007, goes out with the highest distinction, although on an acrimonious ending (dispute with the SARU). That de Villiers led the under-21s to the IRB world title in 2005 is certainly a worthy achievement. He also produced a third place finish in 2004, a second-place finish to the hosts in France in 2006 and, last year, coached the Emerging Springbok side to the IRB Nations Cup title in Romania. All very good results. Nonetheless, the decision to select de Villiers trumped a vote of 77% by the South African Rugby Players’ Association (SARPA) in favor of the acclaimed Pretoria Bulls Super 14 coach, Heyneke Meyer, raised eyebrows. It is worth noting that of the two other candidates, there was also Chester Williams, a black Springboks’ winger who participated in the Boks’ 1995 RWC victory.

Rugby Reasons

Being upfront about the political nature of the appointment, South African Rugby Union (SARU) president Oregan Hoskins said in a press conference, “I want to be honest with South Africa and say that the appointment was not entirely made for rugby reasons.” As the UK Times says, de Villiers’ request to fans to look beyond the colour of his skin was undermined by Hoskins, when he said that race had been a determining factor. We’ll have to see how the governing organizations get behind him.

Certainly, given the lopsided presence of white players in the national rugby team, it is time that RSA rugby reflected and took advantage of the great pool of athletes from their entire population. De Villiers has created history by becoming the first black person in the role. I hope that he is able to produce good results — it is hard yet to imagine that RSA will replicate in 2011 its IRB World Cup. That said, de Villiers’ contract is only for two years! I will be curious to see if/how he includes Cheeky Watson’s son, Luke Watson, in the Springboks team.

In any event, I salute the decision and wish the Springboks success with this landmark decision.

Others blogging on the topic, although I notice a dearth of personal commentary outside of the RSA blogs:

KEO.CO.ZA – the official online partner to SA Rugby (and Cricket) – tons of threads including:
De Villiers wants Meyer in the mix
The Return of Quotas
Ou Grote (South African Rugby News)
Rugby Heaven (NZ rugby blog)
22 Drop-Out
Bruin Developement Forum

News articles on the appointment:
BBC report
ABC from Australia
Scrum
UK Times on Line

RWC 2011 Minnows to be fished out – IRB Millar Proposal

The IRB’s President Syd Millar has stated that he wants to reduce the number of teams competing in the Rugby World Cup 2011 (to be held in NZ) from the current 20 to 16 teams. This would mean that there would be just four open slots for which the lesser teams can vie. The large scale massacres that occurred in the pools have clearly prompted this decision. I suspect this is probably a wise decision in order to keep the pool play more respectable and competitive. Except for two upsets (Fiji v Wales and Argentina v France) in the 40 games played in the pool phase, the results (if not the scores) seemed far too predictable. With just 16 teams, the interest and intensity in the ‘pool’ phase will surely be dramatically increased. In any event, as we now know, the real excitement happens in the knockout phase — which per the new proposal would be reduced to four teams. The proposal also features the creation of Minnows’ tournament (16 teams) being played simultaneously.

Report from down under NZ YahooXtra
BBC commentary

Blogs on the topic:
Long and interesting post in favor from Red Terror (plus a long comment against)
Fiji Rugby Blog: Fiji Chairman speaking out on Millar’s plans
Cage of Monkeys in favor of reducing to 16, with good insights
A meaty post from Independent.ie on the state of affairs for the downed ‘mighty’ minnows in 2007 (plus another stinging article on the state of rugby today Independent.ie)
Sports Industry report
And finally, from 22dropout, the fact that school terms will be altered in NZ to accommodate viewing of the 2011 final. Got to love that.

Rugby World Cup 2007 – Opening Round

I was fortunate enough to attend the France versus Argentina match last night (Rugby World Cup 2007) and was flabbergasted by the host’s performance. The 17-12 victory by the Argentne Pumas was well merited. Despite a French pack that, contrary to the weight inferiority, dominated the scrums and line outs, the game was lost by the backs where the French three-quarters were taken by assault by repeated up-and-unders. Poor receptions and scattered responses made for a poor sight. And, the Argentine pack constantly wrecked havoc on the French set plays. Not least, the Puma tackling was merciless.

So much for the grand opening.

Today, Saturday, saw the Kiwi All Blacks and Aussie wallabies maul, if not massacre, their minnow rivals (Italy and Japan respectively). At 72-14 and 91-3, the scores ressembled cricket scores (granted there are only ten wickets).

The English victory over the USA at 28-10 is a difficult one for me…my split loyalties — brought up in Blighty, I have always supported the English team. But, as an American, haven’t had much opportunity to support a US team — much less at the World Cup.

I would have expected a mauling much the Southern Hemisphere teams did to their Northern foe. Maybe the historical rapprochement between the UK and US makes it difficult for the Limeys want to crush the Yanks? In any event, a more than respectable outing for the Americans. Given a few different quirks and bounces, the game might even have been closer.

Between the French loss, the English middling performance and the NZ and Australian dominance, it’s hard not to call the latter victors in waiting.

Yet, it’s a long tournament. Seven weeks. Injuries, weather and fitness may yet influence the results. Here’s to the occasional upset. At least it keeps things exciting.

A few blogs on the France v Argentina match:
22 drop out
Angie from down under