Bok skipper makes his point on transformation
Bok skipper Jean de Villiers was in superb form in his captain's press conference ahead of the Test against Australia at Newlands on Friday.
It was probably the best 'presser' that I've seen him in as he delivered newsline after soundbyte, saying it was his final Test at Newlands, swiftly batting off an assertion made in a local paper that this Australia team are so poor they had no place sharing the platform with the Boks.
He also coolly switched to Afrikaans when required by reporters, including myself, not often confident enough to ask a question in de Villiers's mother tongue.
But in light of all of that, the day's real highlight could well have been lost.
He was almost out of the woods before Times Media Group's correspondent Craig Ray asked the final question of the day: what he had made of the noise that had been caused by the selection of Teboho "Oupa" Mohoje?
De Villier's hair, which is never out of place, visibly bristled as he delivered perhaps one of the most important answers ever by a Springbok captain.
It was this verbatim:
"You know what I actually wouldn't want to say anything here to Oupa (in terms of a special word in light of the media speculation over his selection).
"I've got a very good relationship with him and whatever gets said in the media or gets written, I don't actually care about that in a way. To me it's about the individual and the person and he's an unbelievable guy.
"He's a great rugby player and he deserves his spot in the starting line-up. He's played fantastically well for his franchise and he's worked hard to get here."
Nobody would have begrudged him stopping right there before he marched on.
"I can still remember when I was out injured and they had their first camp I spoke to Johan van Graan, the forwards coach about the camp, and he said the one guy that most impressed him was Oupa.
"That was a couple of months ago now and he came through it and he's always worked hard and now he gets his opportunity."
De Villiers then delivered words that perhaps will define his legacy as a Springbok captain.
"I think we are way past the days of judging guys by their colour.
"We as a team respect each other, we believe we are the best players available and we treat each other like that. Anyone that comments on it differently I think touches us as a team.
"We play for each other, we care about it each other, and as a team, we'll go out and hopefully make South Africa proud."
In light of the once again heightened awareness of the South African Rugby Union's (SARU) transformation strategy going forward and perhaps manners of reportage around it that seem to be driven by certain agendas, it was very powerful statement for the 33-year-old to make.
The overriding point being that however Oupa Mohoje performs for the Springboks at Newlands then let's judge him just like that of any player in the squad.
De Villiers has made his point; he has told South Africa exactly where he and his team stand, so will the country embrace it?
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