Pretoria - It isn’t the sort of thing that Springbok captains normally spout before an important test match, but Jean de Villiers couldn’t help admitting he is struggling with a bout of nerves as his team prepare to start the Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
According to the supersport.com website, De Villiers has just returned from a three month stint on the sidelines due to injury, didn’t take the opportunity to get game time in the Absa Currie Cup and will make his first appearance by leading the team into battle in what is turning out to be a very important opening game indeed.
With the Bok captain set to play for 60 minutes, his role not only as leader of the team, but also in keeping the two young stars on either side of him - flyhalf Handre Pollard and midfielder Damian de Allende - calm is also something that will help determine if the Boks will reach their goals.
De Villiers admitted he needs to prepare a bit more intensely for this game, as he feels he still has a lot to prove himself despite being South Africa’s player of the year in 2013 and the natural choice as Meyer’s captain.
“Tomorrow is like starting all over again,” De Villiers admitted.
“I need to put a bit of extra time into my preparation for the game. I have already and still need to do some more leading into the game. I need to think a little bit more than what I usually do because I haven’t played for so long.
“It gives me new energy as well, having to prove myself again and show that I’m still good enough. But that is exciting. I’m just as young as the guy on my inside and outside tomorrow. We’ve all got a lot to prove still.”
De Villiers said the game is the culmination of a 12 week rehab programme that he has targeted to be back in action from, and now that it is here, he hopes to make the best of it, even though the nerves are there.
“I’m happy with where I’m at from a fitness point of view. From the day I had the op there was a plan set about for me to return and it went well. It's now about me performing on Saturday and doing the jersey proud,” he added.
“It's always good to get your name called out in a test squad, but it is about representing and representing with pride when you put the jersey on. There is no added pressure, but I’m always quite nervous before games, it doesn’t matter if it is Currie Cup, Super Rugby or international games, and this one - after being out for quite a long time now, you sort of get that feeling again and the nerves stack up a bit a little bit sooner, but I’m excited about it.”
De Villiers said while he had a point to prove, he was expecting just as intense game from the two youngsters who surround him, and believes they will prove their worth when they get on the field.
“Handre has been selected there because the coach and selectors feel he is good enough to play at this level. He showed it in Port Elizabeth. What I’ve seen of him, he ticks all the boxes as a world class flyhalf. I’m very excited to be playing alongside him, it will be the first time we’re playing together and it's also the first time that Damian is playing international rugby. It's great to see guys coming through getting opportunities and they will be taking their chances. I’m looking forward to good games from both of them.”
But for the captain the first priority is to ensure his game is on par, and if that happens, then lead the side to their goals.
The Bok management were keen to get De Villiers on the field as soon as possible. Saturday they get their wish, and he wants to repay their confidence with a dominant display.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Damian de Allende, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Jan Serfontein
15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Juan Martin Hernandez, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Paul Matera, 5 Thomas Lavanini, 4 Mariano Galarza, 3 Ramiro Herrera 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Marcos Ayerza
Substitutes: 16 Matias Cortese, 17 Paz Lucas Noguera, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Thomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino