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11 Jul 2008 12:04
Springbok coach Peter de Villiers labelled former All Black Craig Dowd “stupid” on Friday for criticism made about the Boks’ new mentor.
Dowd added fuel to an already volatile build-up to the second rugby Test between the Springboks and the All Blacks this week when he described De Villiers as a “puppet” and questioned his coaching credentials.
De Villiers, in his first season with the Springboks as South Africa’s first black coach, was a surprise choice to replace World Cup-winning coach Jake White.
Although he safely guided the Springboks through his first three Tests, against Wales and Italy, his reputation was dented when the world champions lost 19-8 to the All Blacks in the opening Tri-Nations Test last weekend.
In a radio interview, 60-Test veteran Dowd said the Springboks have some good staff but “De Villiers is merely a puppet”, drawing an angry response from the South African at a press conference here on the eve of the second Test.
“It’s quite stupid to make a call like that,” said De Villiers, who coached the “Emerging Boks” who won an International Rugby Board (IRB) tournament in Romania last year, and the “Baby Boks” who won the world Under-21 championship in 2005.
“I don’t know Craig Dowd. As close as I got to him was in the TV in my sitting room.
I don’t know if ever saw me or knows me.
SA Rugby chairperson Mpumelelo Tshume also issued a statement saying Dowd’s remarks were offensive and calling for an apology.
“Mr Dowd’s comments are not only deeply and personally offensive to Peter de Villiers and Saru [the South African Rugby Union], but also comically ill-informed on the affairs of South African rugby,” Tshume said in the statement.
“We trust he will show rather better judgement in having the good grace to apologise to Peter de Villiers and to the South African rugby community for the profound offence and hurt he has caused.”
The South African honorary consul to New Zealand, Gregory Fortuin, also called on Dowd to apologise. He said he had respect for Dowd’s achievements as an All Blacks prop but found his comments “offensive”.
When De Villiers was appointed on a majority vote in January, South African rugby president Oregan Hoskins acknowledged the desire to broaden the racial base of rugby had been a factor in the appointment.
“I want to be honest with South Africa and say the appointment did not take into account only rugby reasons,” Hoskins told reporters at the time. “We took into account the issue of transformation in rugby very, very seriously when we made the appointment.”
Refs told to shape up
Meanwhile, all three Australian match officials have been put on notice to improve their performance in the return All Blacks-Springboks Test on Saturday.
Touch judges Paul Marks and James Leckie have been told to lift their game while similar opinions have been relayed to Matt Goddard, who will be in charge of his debut Tri-Nations Test at Carisbrook.
IRB officials are concerned about standards but have little room to manoeuvre because southern-hemisphere referees are the only ones with a working knowledge of the new laws, reports the NZ Herald website.
Goddard’s latest Test outing was a fortnight ago in Cordoba where there were some grim reports about his work in Italy’s 13-12 win against Argentina. In that Test, Goddard awarded more than 30 penalties and set more than 40 scrums.
Former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones delivered a tirade at Goddard during last year’s Super 14, suggesting his handling of scrums was “ludicrous and disgraceful” in remarks that cost the coach a $10 000 fine.
The Springboks aim to turn up the heat on Goddard by suggesting the All Blacks, and in particular loosehead prop Tony Woodcock, are scrummaging illegally.
The visitors have persuaded IRB referees boss Paddy O’Brien to relent on his earlier edict and allow coaches to speak to Goddard before the Test, though they were to do so together on Friday.
“Matt will run the meeting and I am happy as long as both sides go in together,” O’Brien said.
All Black assistant coach Wayne Smith said it is a positive initiative to try to find common ground and understanding on both sides.
The All Blacks’ attitude is to understand what is required and get on with it. After every Test they pen their thoughts to the IRB to encourage dialogue and discussion about trends and ideas for the sport, in a bid to assist the game’s development.
However, Smith suggested talking to the referee is one tactic that teams use to try to influence match officials. But with both sides at Friday’s discussion, Goddard would get a much better feel about what to expect.
“Simple as that, it will be applying the law as he sees it,” Smith said.—Sapa-AFP, Sapa
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