De Villiers speaks out

The man who led the Springboks to series victory over the Lions last summer has become involved in a war of words a year on from that famous triumph. [more]

De Villiers speaks out

The man who led the Springboks to series victory over the Lions last summer has become involved in a war of words a year on from that famous triumph.

Peter de Villiers guided the Boks to a 2-1 win over Sir Ian McGeechan’s tourists 12 months ago after a thrilling series that could easily have gone either way.

De Villiers is now preparing his side for their latest challenge – the 2010 Tri Nations.

South Africa open their campaign against New Zealand in Auckland next weekend as they look to retain the crown they won in spectacular fashion last time out.

But while the focus should be on a mouth-watering clash between the world’s top-two sides, de Villiers’ recent comments have ensured he and his opposition coaches are already grabbing most of the headlines.

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As the Boks boarded their plane for Auckland on Sunday, de Villiers was keen to respond to suggestions from All Black coach Graham Henry and skipper Richie McCaw that the World Champions play ‘less rugby’ than the Kiwis.

"Graham Henry is a good coach, but he's like me, he has a big mouth," said de Villiers, who was in the headlines regularly during the 2009 Lions tour.

"I don't understand what they mean by playing less rugby. We all play for 80 minutes. And we are never in a comfort zone. We try to improve week by week, even if it's just by half-a-percent."

All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen was quick to respond to de Villiers’ comments as the build up to Sunday’s opener gathers momentum.

"He's got an upside down mouth. He's one of those unfortunate people born with an upside down smile," said Hansen.

South Africa go into the first match of the tournament full of confidence having lost just once in last year’s competition and having recorded back-to-back wins in New Zealand.

De Villiers saw his team win 30-28 in Dunedin in 2008 and 32-29 in Dunedin in 2009 as they established themselves as the best side in world rugby.

The All Blacks have since replaced them at the top of the IRB World Rankings but de Villiers insists a trip to New Zealand holds no fear for the Boks.

"One of the important psychological aspects of the game is that if you are in awe of a team, then you can forget to live your own life," added de Villiers.

"We are no longer in awe of the All Blacks. We respect them still, we will still lose some games to them but they will lose against us as well. We fear no one, but we respect everybody.

"We have found the strong characters in our squad and we have set high goals.

"The fans' expectation makes us take our game to the next level. That expectation is very important in terms of our preparation, so the fans will never understand how much they mean to us.

"We're working on the little things and hoping they become big things for us. We're creating a winning culture."

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