So the most colourful character in South African rugby in recent history, Peter de Villiers, is back in the saddle.
News broke on Monday that former Springbok coach, Peter de Villiers, has been announced as the Director of Rugby for the University of the Western Cape (UWC). UWC plays in the lower division of the Varsity Cup competition (Varsity Shield) and in the Premier League A Division in WP Club rugby (3rd division effectively).
It did not take long for the social media platforms and blogs to pick up on this and although a large amount of commentators wished him luck, there was also more than enough of the predictable, disparaging remarks which I suppose was to be expected.
Personally, I believe this says more about the character of the man than any comment, good or bad, has said in the last 4 years.
My personal experience of De Villiers when he was still trying to get a struggling Spears team off the ground was one of a man who loves people and loves the game of rugby. Yes he is strong-willed to the point of possibly being arrogant in his beliefs that drive him, but I never once doubted his absolute passion for the game of rugby and the players he was coaching.
I once asked him how he dealt with racial integration within his own team having suffered at the hands of Apartheid in rugby personally and his answer, although surprising at the time, was probably a lesson all administrators and politicians should learn, where he said that he does very little, but rather allows the game of rugby to sort that out and only guides his players on that path.
Point is, what drove De Villiers when I met him as a relative nobody in South African rugby, is what no doubt still drives him given his decision to take up this post – and that his passion for the game of rugby and the people that play it.
We as a nation often bemoan our loss of intellectual capital from individuals we invest loads of money and time in (usually through our own faults or that of rugby administration), but we also seldom recognize that which is great.
Coaches who have been involved at test level, or even just Super Rugby and Currie Cup level, usually find themselves on a plane to another country once their contracts end or relationships break down, looking for the ‘next best thing’ (read best paid thing), or fade into obscurity altogether, but it is not often that a coach with experience will look to re-invest his knowledge at lower levels, forget 3rd division club level! Especially when rugby is losing its magic and passion as a sport where everything now is about money, not only at union or test level, but even schoolboy level.
Like him or not, Peter de Villiers is all about passion for the game, and I can only applaud his decision to immerse himself into club rugby where his knowledge and experience aided by his passion can only mean great things for the players he will take charge of. Players who like him, is still driven by their passion for the game.