The only rat is Peter de Villiers. The former Springboks coach needs reminding of himself and his infamous press conferences, of which there were many. He also never picked a black player to start for South Africa in the 2011 World Cup quarter-final against Australia in New Zealand, writes Mark Keohane.
De Villiers boasts that he played the rugby media in South Africa for a fool, but the only fool is a Springbok coach who since 2011 hasn’t managed to get a professional coaching job in South Africa.
De Villiers this week took aim at the South African rugby media, mocking them and ignorantly claiming he dismissed them because, according to his research, not one rugby writer had ever played ‘first team rugby’. He then delivered his heavenly pearl that when he said he needed to ‘pull a rat out of the hat’ he was actually taking the piss out of the rugby media because they were the ‘rats’ he was referencing.
They were the stupid ones, he said, because they never knew he was attacking their stupidity.
The detail of this article will again embarrass De Villiers because in 2008, when he used the infamous ‘To pull a rat out of the hat’ comment, he was referring to a Test match and his plans to beat the opposition.
‘To pull a rabbit out of a hat is to do something surprising and seemingly impossible; it is to produce something in a way that has no obvious explanation, as if done by magic. A reference to the magician’s trick of literally pulling a live rabbit out of hat.’
Check any dictionary, ask an informed friend or simply google your best online friend, and that is what you get for ‘pulling a rabbit out of a hat’.
As for a ‘rat out of the hat’ you won’t get much.
De Villiers says he was that clever and the rugby media was that stupid that he was actually referring to them as the rat.
He was asked a question about his team’s prospects on the eve of a Test match and his response was that he was going to ‘pull a rat out of the hat’.
Was he going to pick one of those rugby writers who had never played first team rugby, according to his apparent research?
How was the rat comment ever relevant to anything but a misrepresentation of his ‘surprise’ game plane?
He simply got it awfully wrong in his articulation, as he did so many things.
When De Villiers’s four-year Springbok contract wasn’t renewed in 2011, I wrote it was the ‘end of an error’ and not the end of an era.
I was naturally accused of being a racist, despite my family history and mixed race bloodline. My view was that De Villiers should never have been appointed the coach if the Springboks were to to defend the 2007 World Cup title. It was an opinion expressed before he had coached the Springboks.
De Villiers was never good enough to lead the golden generation of South African players to a second successive World Cup. He was a great manager, in that he created a carefree player environment, but he was an incompetent coach.
If he was that good, why has he never been able to land a coaching job overseas? I am not talking about an inglorious tenure with Zimbabwe, but the lack of any coaching time anywhere else in the world.
If you coach the Springboks to three successive wins against the All Blacks and a series win against the British & Irish Lions in 2009, then you must be the hottest coaching property in European club rugby?
Not so Peter de Villiers.
Why was he never approached to coach anywhere in the world?
It doesn’t’ scream racism or prejudice.
We aren’t talking South Africa here.
And while we are talking race and the Springboks.
When Jake White won the World Cup in 2007, the only non-white representation in his starting XV were two wingers JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana. When De Villiers’s Boks lost against Australia in the World Cup quarter-final four years later, the only non-white representation were the 2007 title-winning wingers Pietersen and Habana and prop Guthro Steenkamp. In four years from 2007 and 2011, between White and De Villiers, a black African did not start in a World Cup play-off match.
De Villiers was not a pioneer of transformation and neither was he a Test match magician, whether he meant to pull ‘rabbits or rats’ out of a hat.
This is what De Villiers said about rugby reporters, in an interview with the London Independent on 2008, published on Friday, 21st November 2008.
‘They don’t know what role they can play to make this country the best in the world. If you spread a positive message to the people, you can make them positive. We talk about murderers and gangsters. Our biggest gang is newspaper reporters. They spread lies and murder people without knowing it by making them say: ‘Right, we just have to do drugs now because there’s nothing left in this country for us’.”
This is what he had to say about mind games, in relation to the opposition, in the same report. ‘Later in the week I might pull a rat out of the hat’.
Check out my discussion with The Money Man below