South Africa coach Peter de Villiers escaped sanction from the southern hemisphere rugby alliance for suggesting that New Zealand was being favored to boost the All Blacks’ popularity before next year’s World Cup.
South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby, or Sanzar, said in an e-mailed statement today that Judicial Officer Jannie Lubbe had “after considering the evidence, decided that, on balance of probability, de Villiers had not breached the Sanzar code of conduct.”
The alliance had called a misconduct hearing to investigate de Villiers following comments he made during a July 21 television interview. Lubbe heard the case on Aug. 6 and reserved his judgment until after the weekend.
Following back-to-back losses to the All Blacks in the opening two games of this year’s Tri-Nations, de Villiers implied a conspiracy to help swell interest for next year’s World Cup in New Zealand. The Springboks were heavily penalized in the defeats and had players suspended.
“I’ve got my own observations about the last two Tests, and maybe I can’t say it in public, but we do have a World Cup in New Zealand next year and maybe it was the right thing for them to win the games so they can attract more people to the games next year,” he told Fox Sports’ “Rugby Club” program.
De Villiers questioned how South African players could be sin-binned for infringements at the breakdown in both games, yet All Blacks captain Richie McCaw could be repeatedly penalized and cautioned for similar offenses and stay on the field.
“Lubbe stated that during his interview with Fox Sports, de Villiers never mentioned or referred to referees or match fixing,” Sanzar said. “As the judicial process has concluded, Sanzar will not be making any further comment on the issue.”
De Villiers, who was appointed as the first black coach of the Springboks in January, 2008, said that he was “satisfied” with the outcome.
“As the verdict makes clear, at no time did I mention referees or a conspiracy and the finding has put this whole incident into context,” de Villiers said in a South African Rugby Union statement. “The matter is behind us and we can get on with preparing for our next Test.”
The Springboks, who lost their three away games in this year’s Tri-Nations, host New Zealand on Aug. 21 at Soccer City near Soweto.