De Villiers was shielded from the Aussie press until yesterday’s team announcement

The last time Peter de Villiers was in Australia, elements of the local media lampooned him as a clown on a national television show in the build-up to the Tri-Nations Test in Brisbane (which the Boks lost badly). After the match, the campaign against him continued when former Wallaby hooker, Brendan Cannon asked him if he believed he was capable of taking the Boks to the World Cup.

So it was not surprising that on this tour De Villiers was shielded from the Aussie press until yesterday’s team announcement, but when he did have to go into bat, he was hardly all defence and played a few sparkling cover drives.

He was asked how the Boks planned to stop Genia and Cooper, the brilliant Reds playmakers that have been recalled to the starting line-up.

“Starve them!” De Villiers said simply.

Huh? What do you mean?

“Starve them …. of possession,” De Villiers said as if the enquirer was obtuse. “They can’t do their magic if they haven’t got the ball,” he added. “They like to perform, they enjoy doing their fancy tricks, but first they must have something to work with.”

And Div means not just the ball but front-foot ball, pointing out the responsibility of the Boks forwards to disrupt Wallaby possession and slow it down whenever possible.

Div was asked how he planned to stop the pair when they did get possession, given that they are unpredictable and hard to plan against.

“You have answered your own question. I can’t add to that.”

Again there was a confused shake of the head from the audience.

“You have just said they are unpredictable and hard to plan against. I agree,” the coach smiled.

There was a change of tack to the breakdowns, an area where Samoa smashed the Wallabies off the ball and then flooded players through the gate to command possession. Will the Boks try and emulate this, Div was asked?

“The breakdown is very important because it is 80 percent of the game, but if you have the ball you don’t have to target it so much, the pressure is on the opposition to try and win it back, so we will look to hang onto the ball, then we won’t have to flood the breakdown,” he said. “And we will be starving Genia and Cooper ….” he added.

Div smoothed the waters by commiserating with opposition coach Robbie Deans, who has been in the centre of a storm of outrage at the home defeat to a team ranked 10th in the world (the Wallabies were No 2 going into that match).

“I have been there. All coaches go through the highs and lows,” he said. “Everything seems to going well and then …

“I must admit I thought that it was going to be difficult for the Wallabies last week in so soon having come off a great Super Rugby win and going into a Test a week later,” Div continued. “It is a learning curve for all of us. What they took from it will determine how they approach this game. One thing, for sure, is that they will not be undercooked!”

The Boks had their usual midweek day off but the Wallabies trained and all the indications from the way they ran is that they are going to try and run the Boks off their feet, using the width of the field.

Wing James O’Connor kept on popping up in the centres, as did fullback Kurtley Beale. Those two are highly creative and when linked to Cooper, the Wallabies have their attacking thrust.

From a South African point of view, let’s hope Div’s starvation plan works.


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