Former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers.
Peter de Villiers was smeared, his family were put under intolerable political pressure and his one-time closest friends became his arch-foes, but he doesn’t regret a moment he spent coaching the Springboks.
He would even go all the way through the agony of last year’s rugby world cup – even though he still wonders if international bookmakers cost his team their quest to win the cup for a historic third time.
There is only one thing he would do over – he wouldn’t have taken the job as a married man and a father.
“I’m tough, but my family suffered more,” he said on Thursday exclusively to The Star on the eve of the launch of his biography, Politically Incorrect.
In the book, he questions why even though the International Rugby Board had privately thanked him and the team management for keeping the peace and not retaliating after Welsh referee Nigel Owens’s woeful refereeing of the off-the-ball incidents in the Bok-Samoa game, they rewarded Owens with a quarter-final match instead of censuring him.
De Villiers also claims Bryce Lawrence, the Kiwi referee who SA fans believe cost the Boks a quarter-final spot, made an unprecedented 47 refereeing errors in place of his customary six per game.
The coach had to fight many battles before the World Cup, though, starting with the now infamous sex tape.
In his book, he says he had been told that ANC MP Cedric Frolick and anti-apartheid activist and Eastern Province rugby boss Cheeky Watson had been behind the infamous sex tape smear, which almost derailed his Bok coaching career before it even began.
“I don’t know who was behind it or why,” he said, admitting that the questions still haunt him today.
No such tape has ever seen the light of day, and De Villiers has denied any involvement in it.
He partly blames himself for the breakdown in the relationship with a man who, together with Frolick, former sports portfolio chairman Butana Komphela and the Soweto Rugby Club’s Dr Asad Bhorat and Mike Stofile, had been one of his greatest supporters for the top job in SA rugby.
“Cheeky didn’t expect me to be so strong,” he said of his decision to stick with Bok captain John Smit and not appoint Watson’s son Luke as captain.
“Maybe I created expectations in Cheeky Watson, and like most South African fathers, he couldn’t take a step back from his child’s sport. Luke is an outstanding player and captain, but he never lived up to my expectations. John (Smit) was by far the better leader, on and off the field.”