South Africa v British & Irish Lions, Johannesburg, July 4
De Villiers admits media regrets
July 3, 2009
South Africa coach Peter de Villiers has admitted his regrets over his recent comments © Getty Images
South Africa coach Peter de Villiers has admitted to regrets over the media storm that he courted when he appeared to condone gouging following Schalk Burger's eight-week ban for the offence. Burger was banned following an incident involving British & Irish Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald in the second Test at Loftus Versfeld last weekend.
De Villiers said that he felt "stupid" for allowing himself to be sucked in by the British media.
"A lot was said this week, I think too much," he said. "The off-the-field stuff sometimes gives you more sleepless nights than the on-field stuff. We had negative media from Britain in 1974 and 1980 and now I've allowed it again in 2009. What a stupid bugger I am! I've learnt that if they can't win on the field then they will try to win anywhere else they can."
De Villiers has rung the changes for his side to face the Lions in the third and final Test in Johannesburg on Saturday, with an all-new back three in Zane Kirchner, Odwa Ndungane and Jongi Nokwe, a revamped centre partnership in Jaque Fourie and Wynand Olivier and a chance at fly-half for the hero of the second Test Morne Steyn.
He is without Burger and lock Bakkies Botha, who was unsuccessful in appealing a two-week ban for an illegal charge on Lions prop Adam Jones, their places taken by Heinrich Brussow and Sharks skipper Johann Muller.
De Villiers thought long and hard about his team selection, which he felt will give the Springboks more energy in a game which is effectively a dead rubber.
"I've changed my mind on tough selection calls four or five times this week, but I've stopped changing my mind now," he said. "It's such a huge occasion for the 28 that, come Saturday, when we get the trophy, we want the guys to feel as one on the pitch.
"The hard yards have been done already by then so I feel it's appropriate to give the guys the same opportunity to show why they are in the squad in the first place. We believe the guys selected are as good as the others and that they can go out and do an outstanding job for the Springboks. They will also bring fresh energy to the team after two tough Tests."
Lions coach Ian McGeechan has also been forced in to changes, due to injuries to centres Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Roberts and props Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins, but is hopeful that his new-look side can still avoid a series whitewash.
"We've tried to freshen it up - there have been some tight calls over the first two Tests," he said. "We gave the players a break earlier in the week, but we are back to it now and very keen to finish with a win. They (the first two Tests) have been two fantastic games of rugby, with a lot of plusses, and I hope it will be the same again on Saturday.
"We certainly don't want to go back on the way we've been playing or on our approach and attitude. If we get enough right, we hope we will be in there with a shot of winning the game. We've got a new challenge. Those players are very keen they show their own capabilities, and I am very encouraged by just what they've done in training this week.
"The players out there will want to respond very positively. If we play well enough to win, it will be a very sweet victory."