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Peter de Villiers

Peter de Villiers (born 3 June 1957 in Paarl) is a South African rugby union player and coach. He was coach of the South Africa national rugby union team from 2008 to 2011, after successes with the South African U19 and U21 squads, and the first-ever non-white to be appointed to the position.[1]

Peter de Villiers
Peter de Villiers.jpg
Peter de Villiers in 2011
Date of birth (1957-06-03) 3 June 1957 (age 62)
Place of birthPaarl, South Africa
Height1.65 m (5 ft 5 in)
Weight70 kg (11 st 0 lb; 154 lb)
SchoolNoorder Paarl High
UniversityPerseverance College, Hewitt College
Occupation(s)Rugby coach; Former Teacher
Rugby union career
Teams coached
Years Team
2008–11  South Africa

He enjoyed mixed successes, managing South Africa to winning the 2009 Tri Nations, a test series win over the British and Irish Lions and a memorable first victory over New Zealand in Dunedin. However he also became known for his controversial off-field comments. South Africa finished bottom in the 2010 and 2011 Tri Nations, and following a quarter final defeat to Australia in the 2011 Rugby World Cup did not renew his contract.

Early coaching careerEdit

He coached amateur club Tygerberg in 1996 and 1997, and the Western Province Disas in 1997. In 1998, he enjoyed his first major appointments as assistant coach for Western Province in the Currie Cup and also the South Africa national under-19 side, which he took to third in the 1999 Under 19 Rugby World Championship. He took the Falcons through the 2002 and 2003 Currie Cup campaigns before going on to coach the South Africa national under-21 rugby union team between 2004 and 2006. In the 2004 Under 21 Rugby World Championship, South Africa finished third, but won in 2005 and came second in 2006. In 2007, De Villiers was appointed coach of the Emerging Springboks and led them to the title of the 2007 Nations Cup.


Following the acrimonious conclusion of Jake White's tenure as Springbok coach, after South Africa's Rugby World Cup victory in France in November 2007, De Villiers was short-listed for the role along with three other candidates, including successful Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer. Cheeky Watson, Neil de Beer and Koos Rossouw were the people that were driving his campaign for election with Koos Rossouw being the major funder. In January 2008, De Villiers was appointed as the first ever non-white coach of the Springboks, but South African Rugby Union (SARU) President Oregan Hoskins indicated that his rugby credentials were not the sole motivation for the appointment: "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."[2][3]

The appointment was not met with universal acclaim. "We have seven lean years ahead," predicted former Springbok captain Corné Krige.[4] De Villiers achieved an early fillip, however, in convincing John Smit to stay on as Springbok captain, but there followed a period of jaundice as Gert Smal and Eugene Eloff refused to be considered as his assistants. Going into February, De Villiers's contract, offering him R200,000 less than his predecessor, was still unsigned. Contractual negotiations broke down in March when he insisted on the final word on team selection. When SARU duly amended its constitution later that month, De Villiers finally gave his signature.

The Springboks' first training squad under De Villiers, comprising 42 players, included sixteen of colour. Dick Muir and Gary Gold were named assistant coaches shortly thereafter. Controversy arose again, however, when Ricky Januarie was dropped for "disciplinary reasons". Going into the Tri Nations, De Villiers's 28-man squad included ten of colour and took two victories against Wales (43–17 and 37–21) and one against Italy (26–0) in Incoming Tours.

Following the Springboks' 19–8 defeat at the hands of the All Blacks, De Villiers accused them of cheating. Several months later, in an interview with SA Sports Illustrated, he declared,

I know the game. Technically, I'm very strong. When I said the All Blacks were cheaters in the first Test in Wellington, I picked up some of the technical stuff they did wrong in the scrums and how they played outside of the laws and how they used that to good effect. I also picked up that, instead of standing a metre apart in the line-outs, they stood a metre and a half apart so that we couldn't compete; and anything outside of any law is cheating.[5]

The side lost again, 16–9, to Australia not long after, but this time De Villiers cast no doubt over the probity of his opponents. In the after match interview De Villiers claimed there was a lot he could learn from the Australian team. He subsequently took his team to a historic triumph in Dunedin, trumping the All Blacks 30–28 before thrashing Argentina with nine tries in a score of 63–9.

In April 2009 he expressed shock that the captains of England, Scotland and Wales had been left out of the Lions squad for the 2009 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa.[6] On 27 June 2009, after South Africa had defeated the Lions in the 2nd Test of the Series, de Villiers attracted criticism when he defended his blindside flanker, Schalk Burger, against charges of eye gouging, despite clear television evidence showing the offence had occurred. De Villiers said "I don't think it should have been a card at all. For me and for everybody, this is sport.".[7] Even after Burger received an 8-week suspension from the IRB on 29 June, De Villers continued to defend him, saying "I have watched the television footage, and am still convinced that nothing he did was on purpose. He is an honourable man – he never meant to go to anyone's eye".[8] However, later the same day, after a meeting with SARU, he apologised, saying "It was never my intention to suggest that I condone foul play. That is the last thing I would ever do and I apologise for that impression."[8] His belated apology did not bring an end to the controversy, with numerous figures in International rugby continuing to criticise him, including Lions player Brian O'Driscoll, who said "To hear the South Africa coach talk about gouging being part of the game was semi-repulsive", and "regardless of the apology he may have submitted – it's essentially bringing the game into disrepute".[9]

Following an 11–9 defeat to Australia in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final, De Villiers confirmed that he will not resign, rather he will see out the rest of his contract that will expire in December 2011 and he will not be signing a new deal. He said, "I enjoyed it. I was in a privileged position to be able to contribute to my country. South African rugby is in a good state and will move forward after this."[10]

Comments and controversyEdit

De Villiers is known for his rather colourful comments, which have landed him in hot water on many occasions.[11]

One of his more controversial comments featured a decidedly racial overtone. In June 2009 shortly after the first test between the Springboks and British and Irish Lions at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria, De Villiers was quoted as saying:

What I've learned in South Africa is that if you take your car to a garage where the owner is a black man and he messes up then you'll never go back to that garage again. If the owner's a white man you say, 'ah, he made a mistake', and you go back.[12]

In June 2009, shortly after the second test between the Boks and the Lions, flanker Schalk Burger received an eight-week ban for eye-gouging Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald. De Villiers responded to the incident by reminding the press that "rugby is a contact sport, and so is dancing".[13] He went on further by saying:

Why don't we go to the nearest ballet shop, get some tutus and get a dancing shop going? (Then there will be) no eye-gouging, no tackling, no nothing and we will enjoy it! [14]

De Villiers’ lively remarks eventually culminated in a rebuke by South African Minister of Sport, Makhenkesi Stofile, who told De Villiers to "keep his mouth shut" and "sober-up".[15]

In the 2011 Rugby World Cup year, De Villiers received much criticism especially from New Zealanders over comments he made about Super Rugby debutant Sonny Bill Williams, in which he described his offloading oriented game as "nonsense" and a bad example for rugby playing children, who were wasting their time seeking to imitate it.

Springbok prop Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira has questioned whether former national coach Peter de Villiers was competent for the role he occupied between 2008 and 2011. Mtawarira, who made his Springbok debut under De Villiers' guidance in 2008, made the startling revelation in his new autobiography, Beast, which will be on sale from July.

"He was a fantastic coach of the Junior Springboks, but I think at the high level he was probably lucky that a very good group of players was handed over to him," Mtawarira writes in the book.

Mtawarira was referring to the fact that De Villiers had inherited Jake White's 2007 World Cup winning team with senior players like Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez, Schalk Burger, John Smit, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen ruling the roost.

Mtawarira added: "His methods and approach didn't really work with the Springboks, and as players we had to be careful what we said to the media. What you said would get back to Peter and affect your place in the team. The media did not like Peter and thought he was a bit of a clown. "There's no doubt that he was happy to be at the forefront of a team that could operate on its own steam. Most of the work was done by the players, with (assistant coaches) Dick (Muir) and (Gary) Gold very influential."

During the 2019 Rugby World Cup tournament in Japan De Villiers publicly announced that he no longer supported the Springbok rugby team because of the inclusion of Eben Etzebeth, who was accused of racist remarks before the start of the tournament. The remarks backfired on De Villiers and he tried, in vain, to explain his remarks. South African supporters demanded that he no longer parade in the Springbok blazer, which he wears on all promotional photos, since he no longer supports the team. He had to eat humble pie when the Springboks went on to win the World Rugby Cup trophy, beating England 32-12 in the final, and tried to quell the stormy waters by congratulating the Springboks on their win. It is believed to have had a serious effect on his "master classes" which he offered to would-be rugby coaches.

Record as Springbok CoachEdit

The Springboks won 30 of their 48 matches under the helm of De Villiers.[16] The 62.5% win percentage includes a 47% win percentage against the All Blacks, having played them 11 times and losing 6 matches, one of which was 40-7. A record defeat at the time.[17] De Villiers is the first Springbok coach since Nick Mallet to have a 100% win record over the All Blacks in a single year (2009). De Villiers is also the first coach since Nelie Smith to have secured a series win over the British and Irish Lions.[18]

De Villiers was hired by Zimbabwe on a two-year contract in February 2018 - for a reported R115 000 per month salary - with the aim of getting the country back to the Rugby World Cup for the first time since 1991. Not only did Zimbabwe fail to make the 2019 World Cup, they were nearly relegated from Africa’s top-tier competition, and was fired shortly thereafter.



  1. ^ Jones, Stephen. "Springboks' first black coach faces uphill task: As Peter de Villiers took charge of South Africa, it was feared he may weaken the side to fulfil the role into which he has been cast", The Sunday Times, 13 January 2008. Accessed 13 January 2008.
  2. ^ Ray, Ray (10 January 2008). "Boks get first bruin afrikaner coach". Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  3. ^ "Transformation" refers to the transition of rugby union in South Africa from a sport dominated by whites during the apartheid era, to a multi-cultural sport in the post-apartheid era.
  4. ^ Quoted in Van Dijk 2008, p. 80.
  5. ^ Quoted in Van Dijk 2008, pp. 78–80.
  6. ^ "Lions omissions shock de Villiers". BBC Sport. 23 April 2009. Retrieved 23 April 2009.
  7. ^ Austin, Simon (27 June 2009). "Burger 'gouge' angers Fitzgerald". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
  8. ^ a b "Boks coach backs down over Burger". BBC Sport. 29 June 2009. Retrieved 29 June 2009.
  9. ^ "O'Driscoll criticises De Villiers". BBC Sport. 30 June 2009. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
  10. ^ Pearce, Nick (9 October 2011). "De Villiers Quits". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
  11. ^ "De Villiers cited for racial remark". 29 June 2009. Retrieved 29 June 2009.
  12. ^ "De Villiers says criticism is racist". 23 June 2009. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  13. ^ "De Villiers rages in eye of storm". 30 June 2009. Retrieved 30 June 2009.
  14. ^ "Get a Tutu". 30 June 2009. Retrieved 30 June 2009.
  15. ^ Rees, Paul (6 July 2009). "Sports Minister tells Springbok Coach to shut up". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
  16. ^ "Sport24 Interview". 23 February 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  17. ^ "SA Rugby results". 29 June 2009. Retrieved 29 June 2009.
  18. ^ "Springbok Rugby Hall of Fame". 29 June 2009. Retrieved 29 June 2009.


  • Van Dijk, Mark. "Crazy? Brave? Visionary?" SA Sports Illustrated, October 2008: 76–80.
  • Peter de Villiers (with Gavin Rich) "Politically Incorrect"

External linksEdit

Sporting positions
Preceded by
 Jake White
South Africa National Rugby Union Coach
Succeeded by
 Heyneke Meyer