Johannesburg — SPRINGBOK coach Peter de Villiers's job may be safe following his statement this week that the national team support Blue Bulls prop Bees Roux, but the South African Rugby Union (Saru) leadership appears to be losing patience with his controversial comments.
While reports of De Villiers facing a disciplinary hearing were exaggerated, it emerged yesterday that he faces another round of serious talks with Saru president Oregan Hoskins after Saturday's Tri-Nations Test between the Springboks and Australia in Bloemfontein as a result of his comments about Roux.
Roux was arrested in the early hours of last Friday morning for allegedly beating a metro police officer to death and was released on R10 0000 bail this week.
But while the Blue Bulls Rugby Union immediately distanced itself from the incident and granted the player indefinite leave with his hearing pending on October 15, De Villiers offered support for Roux without mention of the police officer's grieving family, triggering an angry response from certain quarters.
De Villiers said: "We definitely talked about Bees Roux. We feel for all South Africans and especially rugby players. A situation like this could happen to anybody. People are ugly outside, they're dirty and they try and use everything to stop us from bringing hope to the people out there. It's a tragic situation and we wish it upon nobody. The team supports him 100%. Not on the deed, but ... how the situation developed."
Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke and captain Derick Kuun also spoke out about the incident for the first time yesterday in response to questions about the effect it has had on their Currie Cup preparations.
But after a few questions the union's management's patience wore thin and they turned the focus back to Saturday's clash against the Sharks, saying they would not comment further on the incident.
"We have a family culture here at the Bulls and the players feel for each other," said Ludeke. "It is a huge thing that happened to Bees and his family, and when one of the guys hurt the individuals in the team also feel it. You can never say what impact such an incident has on the team because we are professionals and we have to be able to put it behind us ... but we believe that the Bees situation will be resolved.
"We also feel for the family members of the officer who passed away. As a team you can never close the door on things like this, but we spoke about it and we have to concentrate on the task at hand, and that is Saturday's game against the Sharks."
Kuun, meanwhile, admitted that news of the incident came as a shock. "He is a good friend to us all so it was a big shock. But we are looking past that. This is an important week for us, not only because of the match, but in terms of our log standing as well. So our focus is on delivering a good performance on the field."
Australian coach Robbie Deans yesterday made three changes to the starting team that went down 44-31 to the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld for Saturday's Test in Bloemfontein, with the most significant being No8 Ben McCalman earning his maiden Test start as a replacement for Richard Brown.
Stephen Moore starts as hooker ahead of Saia Fainga'a, in what will be his 50th Test, while lock Mark Chisholm replaces Dean Mumm in the engine room.
The Test, which is the decider for the Mandela Challenge Plate trophy, will also mark a special milestone in wing Drew Mitchell's career, as he too will earn his 50th Test cap. Commenting on his team on the Wallabies website, Deans said: "All three of the players coming into the pack will offer us energy. It's obviously a big night for Stephen, as well as for Drew, but Mark and Ben also have big opportunities ahead of them ... both Stephen and Mark have experience playing in games where the circumstances were not too dissimilar to what we will encounter on Saturday night."
Kurtley Beale; James O'Connor, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Ben McCalman, David Pocock, Rocky Elsom (capt); Nathan Sharpe, Mark Chisholm; Salesi Ma'afu, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson. Replacments: Saia Fainga'a, James Slipper, Dean Mumm, Richard Brown, Luke Burgess, Berrick Barnes, Anthony Fainga'a.