Johannesburg - Springbok captain Jean de Villiers says he would step away from the international fray at his own volition if he feels he’s not up to standard to feature at this year’s Rugby World Cup in England and Wales.
De Villiers is in an advanced stage of his rehabilitation after dislocating his kneecap in the Springboks’ 12-6 defeat to Wales in Cardiff at the end of November and had to undergo knee reconstruction.
He confirmed on Wednesday that he was likely to make his return to the playing field in July pending a final assessment by Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts.
“As a player you will know when you are not needed or good enough, there is a lot that goes with it, not just playing,” De Villiers said.
“I will know and if that is the case I will walk away, it might not be easy but I also think that you don’t want to embarrass yourself.”
De Villiers was speaking at a breakfast hosted by Citadel where he announced a Tribute Series that will kick-off with a gala dinner called ‘Captains Fantastic and the Incredible Schalk’ featuring John Smit, Victor Matfield and Schalk Burger at the Sandton Convention Centre on July 27.
The benefit dinner will be followed by a golf days at Killarney Country Club on August 18 and Boschenmeer Country Club on September 4.
De Villiers said it was a relief that he was now only weeks away from making a comeback instead of months and revealed that he could make his return as early as the warm-up match against the World XV on July 11 in Cape Town.
“You obviously don’t just walk into a Test match and with the World XV game not being a Test there is far less pressure and it might be a possibility to get introduced. It may be off the bench,” De Villiers said.
He said he would definitely feature in Western Province’s two Currie Cup warm-up games against the Pumas and EP Kings on July 18 and 25 respectively.
The 34-year-old said there was a real possibility that he could play in a few Currie Cup matches in August.
“The Currie Cup is very realistic possibility and those warm-up games will certainly be crucial for me to get into the swing of things,” De Villiers said.
“Getting back playing is one thing, getting form back and being good enough to play at a higher level is where I need to get to.”
Watching this year’s Super Rugby from the sidelines, De Villiers said he was not concerned that the South African franchises’ poor showing in this year’s competition would have an influence on the national side.
“It is just different when you get together as a Springbok team, when you put the green jersey on it changes people for the good, so I am not concerned at all,” De Villiers said.
De Villiers said he was instead encouraged by the emergence of young talent and he believed the old campaigners that have proven their worth over the years would step up to the plate once they represent the country.
“There are a lot of exciting things that came out of Super Rugby, you can look at the negatives with the guys not performing but there were a couple of exciting youngsters that stepped up this year.
“There were guys on the fringes that stabilised their position in the Springbok team this year.
“From a senior players’ point of view some of them might have had a bad run in Super Rugby but I am confident those guys have proven at national level what they can do and you know what you get from them.”