Boks get first black coach

10 January 2008 - 02:00 By Craig Ray

SOUTH African rugby took a step into the future yesterday by naming Peter de Villiers, 50, as the first black Springbok coach.

SOUTH African rugby took a step into the future yesterday by naming Peter de Villiers, 50, as the first black Springbok coach.

He will succeed World Cup winning coach Jake White with immediate effect, although the terms of his contract still have to be decided.

De Villiers, the outgoing SA under-21 coach where he had an impressive record, narrowly beat former Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer. SA Rugby Union managing director Johan Prinsloo admitted the Presidents' Council had been divided on the two.

"The decision was not reached by consensus; it had to go down to a vote," Prinsloo said. "I won't give you the numbers but it was as close as dammit to a swear word."

Where this leaves Meyer is unclear, although Saru president Regan Hoskins said the union was considering creating an elite director of rugby position.

De Villiers, who coached the Baby Boks to the world title in Argentina in 2005 and to the final a year later, was at ease with his new role.

"References to me being the first black Springbok coach must stop now," he said. "I'm the next Springbok coach."

"The greatest thing in your life is to achieve something, but the hardest is to keep your feet on the ground. I know I can do the job and I will go out there and use the structures that are in place, and I will work from the foundation the previous coach laid.

"I'm in a privileged position in that I'm taking over a winning side. The hard work begins now.

"I would be crazy to try and re-invent the wheel because to make wholesale changes would be stupid."

The Boks are world champions and are ranked No1 by the International Rugby Board. Of the starting team that won the World Cup final against England last October, only prop Os du Randt is unavailable.

The challenge is for De Villiers to transform a largely white squad while maintaining the Boks' place at the top.

Hoskins said De Villiers' appointment was not only a rugby decision but also a political move to further transform the sport.

"I want to be honest with South Africa and say that the appointment was not entirely made for rugby reasons," Hoskins said.

"We have made the appointment and taken into account the issue of transformation when we made it. I don't think that tarnishes Peter - I'm just being honest with our country.

"He is a strong leader and a coach with a proven record. We trust the rugby fraternity will support him and the team as we embark on an exciting new phase of our proud rugby history."

De Villiers took the SA under-21s to third place at the IRB world championships in 2004, first in 2005, and second in 2006.

White was assistant coach to the 1999 champions, coached the side to the under-21 title in 2002 and to fourth in 2003.

De Villiers will meet the five Super 14 coaches on Monday in Cape Town and his first Test will be against Wales on June 7.