Peter de Villiers said it was “sad to listen and hear” about how Tendai Mtawarira had said that the former national coach’s “methods and approach didn’t really with the Springboks”.
De Villiers was interviewed by Robert Marawa on the Room Dividers segment of the Marawa Sports Worldwide programme on Radio 2000 on Tuesday evening, where he responded to an extract from Mtawarira’s book ‘Beast’, which will be launched on 1 July.
In the extract that was released to Netwerk24, 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.
“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 Dick (Muir) and (Gary) Gold (Bok assistant coaches) very influential.”
De Villiers said that he had worked hard to have Mtawarira, who hailed from Zimbabwe, make the Bok side.
“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 teammates to accept him for who he was… It’s sad to listen and see this kind of stuff,” De Villiers told the Marawa Sports Worldwide Show.
“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 ja, I just hope for him to get well soon (Mtawarira has been injured), so that he can actually fight for a place in the World Cup.
“He was a number eight, 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 call it that, coming from Zimbabwe. They always… 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.”
De Villiers also refuted the suggestion that he had “inherited” Jake White’s 2007 World Cup-winning Bok squad when he took over in 2008.
“I don’t want to say anything about what’s in the papers on this (Mtawarira), because I’m quite tired of black-on-black violence by now,” he said.
“We’ve all been used by some sinister force out there to divide us, so that we actually think that we owe them everything for our existence. So, things are actually not what you really see. People have been paid to say a lot of things in life.
“And I’m not implying that this is the same thing. But it’s sad that you won’t hear the same stuff from Victor (Matfield) or John (Smit) about me… All those guys, Bryan Habana – you won’t hear the same stuff about me. It is sad that he (Mtawarira) will say that.
“Everybody talks about the team we inherited from Jake White. Eighty percent of that team, I coached either at Under-19 or Under-21. So, if we go that route, he inherited that from us.
“If you look at the records that we broke with those players, when I took them over, especially in New Zealand and all around the world – if I used his players better than what he could use them, then there must be something that I did right?
“Quite rightfully, they were experienced players, they did win a World Cup. So why would I go in there and change the whole thing?
“I think my management style and the way I understand people, and how I can identify the… guys’ abilities to actually become better than that, I think that was everything in my favour.
“I got John and Victor the other night, and what made me feel very good about myself was John saying he understands now why I did things like that – and he never had the freedom from anyone else in life to grow and take responsibility.”
The publishers of the book, Pan Macmillan, said in a statement on Tuesday: “A few commentators who have had pre-launch access to the book have honed in 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.
“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,” says Mtawarira in ‘Beast’.”
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