South Africans are passionate about their rugby. And the critics of the Springbok coach will have plenty of ammunition after South Africa crashed to its third straight defeat in the 2010 Tri-Nations in Brisbane last night. The Springboks head back from their three-week road-trip empty-handed; no competion points halfway through the tournament. Surely their Tri-Nations defence is already over.
Graham Henry hasn't hesitated to ramp up the pressure on his South African counterpart; the Sunday Star-Times reports:
Graham Henry has used the controversy Peter de Villiers has embroiled himself in to gently turn the screws on his Tri Nations rivals.
De Villiers made the outlandish claim this past week that the All Blacks recent supremacy over the Springboks was part of a conspiracy aimed at generating support before next year's world cup tournament.
Henry yesterday flew to the scene of the crime in Brisbane and watched the Wallabies open their Tri Nations campaign against South Africa.
Before he departed on his spying mission, he expertly distanced himself from the controversy.
"I can't really take anything [de Villiers] says seriously," Henry said.
Nor, we suspect, do South African rugby supporters. At 7.30pm on Saturday night two weeks ago, the Springboks were, in everything but IRB rankings, the #1 team in world rugby. What a difference a fortnight makes. After three consecutive losses, the Springboks are in disarray, and we don't know that Peter de Villiers is the man to turn them around.
Interesting times await, and the All Blacks vs Springboks match at Soccer City next month will be crucial for both teams' fortunes as thoughts turn to 2011.