Peter de Villiers called it quits as South Africa coach after the reigning champions lost a World Cup quarter-final to Australia in Wellington yesterday.
“It was a brilliant journey,” said de Villiers, who took over from Jake White following the Springboks’ 2007 World Cup win.
“There’s a time to come and a time to go and I think the journey for me is over,” he added, after South Africa’s 11-9 loss to Australia saw the “curse of the champions” strike again, with no team yet to win back-to-back World Cup titles.
Turning his gaze on assembled journalists, de Villiers, who has been much maligned for some of his selection policies and public gaffes, added: “It’s something you guys can’t take away from me.”
“It was incredible and I’m privileged to have been in a position to make a contribution to my country. I hope it was a positive one,” he said.
It was a bruising, but undistinguished quarter-final at the Wellington Rugby Stadium between the ’Boks and Wallabies.
South Africa, fielding their most experienced side in history, dominated possession and territory, but could not land the killer blow against the twice-champions in a match riddled with basic kicking and handling errors.
Australia captain James Horwill scored the only try of the match in the 12th minute to help the Wallabies to an 8-3 lead at halftime.
South Africa flyhalf Morne Steyn replied with a penalty and drop-goal in the second half to put ’Boks ahead before James O’Connor kicked the winning penalty after a lineout infringement with eight minutes remaining.
The Springboks’ physical strength was graphically revealed in two early scrums when they forced the Wallabies to retreat. They also stole an Australian lineout, but in neither case were they able to translate power into points.
Instead, it was Australia who opened the scoring when South Africa won a lineout near their line and loose forward Schalk Burger lost the ball in midfield.
Wallabies No. 8 Radike Samo snapped up the ball and fed center Pat McCabe, who passed to Horwill and the big lock strode through a gap to score. O’Connor, possibly distracted by an early charge from JP Pietersen, missed a regulation conversion.
Fullback Kurtley Beale set up Australia’s next points with an electrifying break through the center. Australia won a penalty and O’Connor made no mistake this time with a simple kick to the right of the posts.
South Africa went on the attack after the break and fullback Pat Lambie crossed the line for an apparent try, but New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence called the teams back for a forward pass by center Jean de Villiers.
Steyn narrowed the margin with a comfortable penalty then snapped a drop goal more than five minutes later to give his side the lead for the first time.
Australia were pinned in their own half and the errors multiplied with both sides persistently relinquishing possession.
However, the Wallabies broke out and won a lineout penalty when lock Danie Rossouw took Sano’s feet from under him and O’Connor slotted the kick.
Australia won two scrums, the final one in the last minute, and scrumhalf Will Genia kicked the ball jubilantly into touch.
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