De Villiers under probe


JOHANNESBURG, September 6- A disastrous South Africa Tri-Nations campaign and controversial comments by embattled coach Peter de Villiers will be reviewed this month, a statement said Sunday.

"Rugby followers are extremely disappointed with results in the Tri-Nations as are the Springbok team and management," South African Rugby Union (SARU) president Oregan Hoskins said.

"We take the situation very seriously but there is a process in place and we will follow that through. SARU will make no further comment until the review process is complete."

Sections of the South African media predicted De Villiers, who became the first black coach of the Springboks when appointed two years ago, would be fired Sunday with one blogger labelling him a "clown".

The thick-skinned coach has grown used to hostile reporters and repeatedly claims that when his team triumph he is a "superman" and when they flop he is a "clown".

De Villiers infuriated SARU this week when he told a news conference that the Springboks extended "100 percent" support to Jacobus ‘Bees’ Roux, a Blue Bulls prop forward accused of murdering a Pretoria policeman.

The coach made no comment about the policeman, reportedly battered to death in the early hours of the morning in a suburban street, and Hoskins said he had written to the family of the deceased offering support and condolences.

After warm-up Test wins over Italy (twice), Wales and France, South Africa lost five of six southern hemisphere matches to finish bottom with seven points one year after topping the table.

On Saturday they trailed Australia by 18 points at half-time, stormed back to hold a one-point advantage only to see victory snatched from their grasp when fullback Kurtley Beale landed a long, acute-angle penalty at the death.

De Villiers has faced continuous criticism for not resting weary senior players like captain John Smit, lock Victor Matfield and wing Bryan Habana, who was booed regularly during the Wallabies Test in Bloemfontein.

He has also come under fire for rarely choosing a specialist loose forward ‘fetcher’ since Heinrich Brussouw suffered an injury early this year that has ruled him out of an end-of-season ‘Grand Slam’ tour to Europe.

The absence of another year-long casualty, ace scrum-half Fourie du Preez, has not helped although converted wing Francois Hougaard impressed in the home leg of the Tri-Nations.