Former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers on Earl Rose, extract from book.
"Earl Rose was one of the players who did well in the midweek games [on the 2009 year-end tour], and in retrospect, I should have sent Ruan Pienaar home, as he did not play at his best on that trip, and put Earl on the bench instead. But it turned out to be Earl's last tour of my tenure. He seemed to fade away quickly afterwards, which was tragic, as he had amazing talent. He was a sad example of a black player who had been failed by the system. Part of the problem is that few coaches understand the psychology of black players.
"I had a lot of time for Earl as a player. Along with Thabang Molefe, he's helped us win the Under-21 title in 2005. But he could be a very emotional guy at times. At one Under-21 tournament, Bismarck du Plessis had to go home early after breaking his ankle, and Earl came to my room in tears. 'You know what coach? I realised today that every day is potentially your last day, and every tour is potentially your last tour,' he said.
"Critics often accused Earl of not caring enough about his rugby, and that he was too happy-go-lucky in his approach. But I knew him to be very passionate about his committed to the sport, and his emotional reaction to Bismarck's misfortune during that Under-21 tournament was just one instance where he disproved the general perception.
"On another occasion while I was coaching the Under-21s, I gave everyone in the squad a piece of paper on which they could write down their problems as the first step in trying to overcome them. Earl was the only player who actually signed the piece of paper, which was supposed to be anonymous. A lot of the other players had problems with the captain as well as other issues, but Earl just wrote: 'I have no problems. Whatever the team decides, I'm in.'
"As a player Earl never let me down. At the end of my first year with the Springboks, I thought that he might be the transformational force our game needed. Not necessarily in the starting team, but certainly coming off the bench.
"Over the years the provincial unions coached many black players with plenty of talent, but not always successfully, Mzwandile Stick, Adi Jacobs, Thabang Molefe, Thando Manana and the late Solly Tyibilika among them. But when I worked with those guys, I quickly realised what the real problem was. The system was the problem, not them. The white coaches who coached them at the unions didn't understand that they had creative minds and just saw things differently.
"If you told Solly Tyibilika that you wanted him to set up a ball, he would want to know why. He would say: 'Agh no man, why must I do that when I can just go around the defender?' I had similar conversations with Earl Rose, but I soon figured out how to handle him. With Earl, you had to make him believe that he was the one making the decision. Let's say he is playing at fullback and running from the back more than you want him to - you sit him down and tell him how brilliant he is, but also ask why he ran the ball with so many defenders lined up in front of him. Chances are that he will then say that he shouldn't have done it. And he will make a note not to do it again.
"Earl may be 10 years ahead of his time. He will run through you when he could have run around you, and while that may be criticised now, as it doesn't conform to the norm, perhaps in time it will be seen as a good thing. Schalk Burger is an example of a white player who is very creative. But if he wasn't white, selectors might have dismissed him as a stereotype and he may have found it more difficult to become a regular in the starting line-up. I am not denigrating Schalk or knocking his status as one of South Africa's truly great players - far from it. But Schalk likes to do his own thing on the field, and that has often been exactly what black players are criticised for. In our 2011 World Cup game against Samoa, we needed Schalk to drive us forward. Instead, he ended up being the guy who made the most passes. If someone like Solly Tyibilika had done something similar, he might have been dropped because he wasn't following instructions. He would have been considered a problem player.
"Race remains a factor in rugby, whether people want to believe it or not. Often, too much notice is taken of a player's background and origin, which can cloud our judgement. At the 2011 World Cup, we turned a blind eye when John Smit and some of his fellow senior players stole a sign while on a road trip in New Zealand. The incident made all the local newspapers, but we just laughed it off. After all, the guys were just letting off steam. But what would the reaction have been had Ricky Januarie stole that sign? As Ricky was regarded as a 'problem' player, the public might not have been as accepting.
"I had plans in mind for Earl after the 2009 end-of-year tour, so I wanted Dick Muir, who was coaching the Lions in the following year's Super 14, to give him an extended run. Dick agreed with me about Earl's potential, but then he left Earl out of the Lions team. I couldn't understand why. That was one of the reasons I wasn't happy with Dick coaching the Lions, despite the fact that I had initially supported the idea. I'd thought that Dick was aware of how I wanted to operate; he knew how frustrated I was that I had no support from the Super Rugby coaches apart from Frans Ludeke at the Bulls. But Dick followed his own head - so I guess I can't blame him, as I am much the same. It irritated me that by not selecting Earl, as we agreed, he sent out the wrong message about the player."
Strange, I thought of Earl Rose as a bit of a poor player myself, never too impressed by him, I don't think PDivvy gets it that when people say they want Earl Rose or Ricky Januarie dropped it isn't about race.
Nobody is saying drop JP Pietersen or Beast are they? as they are much better players than Earl Rose, simples