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Koos Kombuis

Why Peter Div should stay

2011-10-13 09:24
There’s a line from a song from an old musical that springs to mind every time I see a picture of Springbok rugby coach Peter De Villiers.

It’s from My Fair Lady (based on Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw), and it goes: "I've grown accustomed to her face."

Of course, if applied to Peter de Villiers, the line would be "I've grown accustomed to his face", but the sentiment would still hold true.

In the movie My Fair Lady, this song is sung by the ageing professor Henry Higgins, performed by Rex Harrison. To me, the song has always been one of most understated, yet most charming love songs ever written, and Rex Harrison manages to sing it with just the right amount of detachment, tenderness and irony. It’s the song in which he finally expresses his budding love for the young Eliza Doolittle (performed by Audrey Hepburn). The love he expresses is not the youthful, idealistic love one would expect at the emotional climax of a musical. If anything, Harrison seems to resign himself to Eliza's presence in his life. It’s as if he is saying: "I think I've finally managed to accept you as part of the furniture around here. So (sigh) let’s get it over with and (deeper sigh) let’s get married."

That’s exactly how I feel about Peter de Villiers. And that’s why I want him to stay on as Springbok coach.

Rooibos and potatoes

Indeed, I've grown accustomed to his face. I’ve even grown accustomed to his odd one-liners, his indecipherable press interviews, and his homespun half-truths. I would sorely miss him if he were no longer around. He has become a part of my frame of reference. I need him, like I need rooibos tea or potatoes. Life would be strangely incomplete without him.

Can we have this funny little man around for just a bit longer, please? Pretty please?

I know he hasn’t been quite as glamorous and even as controversial and as spectacularly goal-orientated as most of our previous coaches. He did not fire the imagination the way Nick Mallet did. He did not infuriate us quite as much as Rudolf Straeuli. He wasn’t as urbane and suave as Jake White. If anything, he was the Forrest Gump of Springbok coaches. Clumsy, often indecisive, apologetic. But so endearing! So human! So damn vulnerable!

I’m not sure if I can face the future without this bumbling, yet enigmatic figure. Peter de Villiers has become one of my security blankets in the New South Africa, a point of reference, somebody I turn to whenever life gets too unbearably serious. He sort of brings me back to base. He helps me remember the little things in life that are really important.

Go with 'quirky'

And you know something else? I can see this guy actually taking us all the way to win the next World Cup. I believe he can. He has improved with the years, and he has proven that he is willing to learn from his own mistakes. If he is good now, he’ll be excellent then. He might even turn out to be the best Springbok rugby coach of all time!

But whether he manages to go all the way, let's face it, Peter de Villiers has, by now, established himself as a South African icon as recognisable as the protea emblem, as quirky as Nando’s ads, and as madly eccentric as Salvador Dali (I know Salvador Dali was Spanish, not South African, but he was the only person in history to sport an equally weird moustache and get away with it!).  

Let’s stick to Peter Div, I say. Let's go with quirky. I don’t know if I want things to return to boring old normal just yet...

After all, I've grown accustomed to his face…   


Read more on:    rugby world cup  |  koos kombuis  |  columnists

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