Springboks furious at 'puppet' jibe

Tensions rise ahead of Tri-Nations clash

Last Updated: 10/07/08 7:23pm

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De Villiers: controversial choice

De Villiers: controversial choice

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South Africa have reacted furiously to a radio interview in which former All Blacks star Craig Dowd labelled Springboks coach Peter de Villiers a "puppet".

The comment served to further increase the bad blood currently existing between the two sides and ratchet up tensions ahead of Saturday's Tri-Nations clash in Dunedin.

As well as launching into his bout of name-calling, former front-row Dowd also questioned whether De Villiers knew anything about rugby.

De Villiers' appointment in January as the successor to Jake White was cloaked in controversy amid claims it was politically motivated.

New Leicester boss Heyneke Meyer was clear favourite to replace White but De Villiers edged his rival for the post, becoming the Springboks' first black coach.

Even South African Rugby Football Union president Oregan Hoskins admitted at the time that De Villiers was picked for reasons aside from his skills as a coach.

The 51-year-old has since been dogged by doubts over whether he is really in charge of the Springboks or merely a politically acceptable front for assistants Gary Gold and Dick Muir.

Dowd waded into the argument after New Zealand's 19-8 victory in the Tri-Nations opener, a match which also saw a controversial spear tackle that has sidelined Springboks skipper John Smit.

Public apology

SARU chairman Mpumelelo Tshume has demanded a public apology, saying: "SA Rugby has noted with shock and disgust comments made by former All Black Craig Dowd in which he described Peter de Villiers, the Springbok coach, as a puppet, among other things.

"Mr Dowd's comments are not only deeply and personally offensive to Peter de Villiers and SARU but also comically ill-informed on the affairs of South African rugby.

"We trust he will show rather better judgement in having the good grace to apologise to Peter de Villiers and to the South African rugby community for the profound offence and hurt he has caused."

South Africa were already reeling from the off-the-ball spear tackle Brad Thorn made on Smit.

Smit will miss Saturday's Test as well as the clash with Australia because of a groin injury, which he claimed was caused by the tackle that was punished only with a penalty.

"Just imagine Bakkies Botha doing something similar to Richie McCaw. World rugby would have come to a standstill," Smit told Supersport.

"Yes, I'm angry. I'm really not happy about having to sit in South Africa and watch the Springboks beat the All Blacks in Dunedin.

"One almost gets the idea that anyone who is not from New Zealand does not have same rights as someone who plays for the All Blacks.

"A few seasons ago, Graham Henry asked everyone not to tackle Richie McCaw. Now Richie is injured and Henry is asking everyone not to tackle Dan Carter."

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