South African vice-captain Victor Matfield has given the clearest indication yet that the players, and not the coaching staff, were making critical calls in the last four years.
Despite vehement denials since Peter de Villiers took over as Springbok coach in 2008, Matfield finally admitted the senior players told De Villiers how they wanted to play.
Speaking after the Boks' exit at the World Cup, a 9-11 quarterfinal loss to Australia on Sunday, Matfield praised De Villiers for being "flexible" in his approach.
The Bok lock - who has played his last Test for his country after retiring - admitted that he decided to play in France after the 2007 World Cup because De Villiers was named head coach.
"I was in France when he got the job - I went to France because he got the job," Matfield said.
"But I came back after spending one hour with him. I decided: 'This is a guy I'd love to work with'. I'm very happy about my decision. He's an unbelievable guy and I've just got respect for him."
Matfield, like captain John Smit, spoke of how "different" De Villiers' approach to coaching had been to other mentors.
He admitted this did not always sit well with the senior players.
However, the player, Matfield said, managed to persuade him to see it their way.
De Villiers, who arrived in the job with a vision of "all out attack" for South Africa, evolved into a coach who embraced the more conservative approach that suited the players.
"I think when he came in he got in with a lot of senior players that had a style in their head that they wanted to play," he said.
"I don't think any coach would have been able to change their mind, [except] maybe if he dropped 80 percent of the guys they could.
"He [De Villiers] accepted that, he worked with that, he always gave everything we wanted, he created an unbelievable environment for us to perform in. We had a great four years with him."
The Bok captain, Smit, who retired from Test rugby but will continue to play for Saracens in England, also spoke of De Villiers' "unique" style and said the team had an enormous amount of respect for the coach.
"As much as the pain flows through the heart right now, the other thing that was said in the changing room by many a guy was that we have had a great four years together and that had been pioneered by Peter," Smit said after the loss to Australia.
"Not the usual mould of coach that any of us have been used to, but one that we have thoroughly enjoyed over the four years.
"He's been a great man and he's helped us enjoy these four years and it's disappointing to end it like this."
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.