THE FINAL PASS: New Zealand's Justin Marshall looks at Joost van der Westhuizen diving as he passes the ball during their quarterfinal Rugby World Cup match at Docklands Stadium in Melbourne. South Africa lost the match 29-9. Following the match Joost announced his retirement from the game in which he played 89 test matches. This is most likely the last photograph we will see Joost in his usual pose. İReuters
Former Springbok great Danie Gerber and ex-Bok coach Nick Mallett have hit out at South Africa's rugby administrators in the wake of SA's premature exit from the 2003 RWC at the hands of the All Blacks. "Their egos are a massive problem," said Gerber, who was voted as the greatest Springbok of all-time in the recently-published book, 'The Chosen - The 50 Greatest Springboks of All Time'. "[But] if you say the wrong things to them, or about them, you end up out of favour. For them it's a case of jobs for pals, whereas they should rather be worrying about the game by appointing the proper people." Gerber, who sadly played just 24 Tests for the Springboks because of SA's enforced period of isolation, also had a go at SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd Managing Director Rian Oberholzer, whom he said could not be compared to the likes of the late Danie Craven or even Louis Luyt (both former South African Rugby Football Union Presidents). "There was just one Doctor Rugby and that was Doc Craven," lamented Gerber. "Some people may have had a problem with Louis [Luyt], I certainly did not. Let me tell you, a lot of people respected him and he knew how to run the game."
Despite the obvious disdain shown for the current powers that be in the boardrooms, Gerber stopped short of calling for Rudolf Straeuli's head, the Springbok coach having presided over some disastrous results since taking over from Harry Viljoen in April 2002. "Saturday's loss to the All Blacks [at the RWC] was a case of men against boys," said Gerber, "it was like a lion toying with its wounded prey. "I'm not sure if changing the coach will help, however. The players also let their coach down. Once the game starts he can't catch, kick or tackle for them. That they have to do for themselves. "To beat the All Blacks you need flair and game-breakers, I'm afraid we didn't have that out there. In the All Black side you have to keep tabs on Spencer, Rokocoko, Mauger, Howlett and Muliaina. Who did they have to watch in the Springbok side? Nobody!" Gerber, meanwhile, was not alone in having a go at the top-brass, with former Springbok coach Nick Mallett writing in his weekly Sunday Times column that Oberholzer and co. had to answer for SA's failure - and worst-ever finish at a Rugby World Cup. "There needs to be a mass resignation - from the President, the vice-President and the Managing Director of SA Rugby down. These men have not been successful at any level," wrote Mallett, who presided over SA's most successful run in Test history during 1997 and 1998. "Over the last eight years they have taken multiple decisions that have not been to the good of professional rugby in South Africa. They should all be in the firing line. "Why? Because we've gone from being the best team in the world in 1995 to a rabble, unable even to advance beyond the quarter-finals [of the World Cup]."
Former Springbok centre Pieter Müller, who was a member of Mallett's World Cup side in 1999, also entered the debate, suggesting that someone takes ownership for SA's recent failures at Test (and RWC) level. "The problems do start at the top where, it seems, there is a lot of back-stabbing, but the players also have to be honest with themselves. "But," continued Müller, "the players also need to be given confidence. They need to develop and when the next World Cup comes around we could have a core of players, who have won 40-plus caps and built up the necessary experience in the process." The real fall-out from SA's failed campaign should happen within the next few weeks. Let's wait and see ...