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Jean to be rewarded with Bok captaincy

2015-08-27 06:45

Durban - Jean de Villiers’ brave and long battle to overcome injury is expected to be rewarded on Friday evening when he is named as captain of Heyneke Meyer’s 31-man Springbok squad for the Rugby World Cup in England.

De Villiers is one of a number of senior Springboks who have played little or no rugby in recent weeks and face late fitness assessments before the squad is finalised and announced.

De Villiers suffered a career-threatening knee injury in Cardiff last November and eight months of rehabilitation saw him return for the Springboks’ Rugby Championship Test against the Pumas at King’s Park on August 8.

A fractured jaw in that international, involving a healing period of between four and six weeks, again cast doubt on his participation in the World Cup.

Complicating Meyer’s selection problem was the Rugby Championship form shown by the new and young midfield pairing of Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel.

This has led to speculation that De Villiers’ selection would be a disruption, just as the inclusion of a limping Bob Skinstad ahead of long-serving captain Gary Teichmann derailed the 1999 World Cup Springboks.

The coaching staff and the medical team are playing their cards close to their chests regarding the availability of the De Villiers and the others who have been medically boarded, but one of the Springboks told The Witness on Wednesday that “Jean will definitely be in the squad.”

“Duane (Vermeulen), Francois (Louw) and Fourie (Du Preez) will also there, no problem,” he added.

Team doctor Craig Roberts certainly hinted that all was well medically in the Bok squad at the weekend though the lack of match practice of at least a dozen players remains a concern.

Roberts had always been confident that De Villiers would be ready for the World Cup, pointing out that while the Springbok captain would not be able to take contact for a couple of weeks, he was able to continue his fitness training and the rehab work on his knee.

Still, the rugby public remains divided over whether De Villiers, short of game-time, should captain the team when his place in the starting line-up is not guaranteed.

It appears Meyer is satisfied that De Villiers is ready. With veteran Jaque Fourie declaring himself unavailable for the World Cup, and Frans Steyn’s involvement in some doubt, Meyer patently lacks midfield experience. De Villiers obviously provides that in heaps while he can play at either inside or outside centre and remains one of the most respected captains, on and off the field, in world rugby.

The other injured players who have been sidelined, some for weeks and others for months, are Fourie du Preez, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Marcell Coetzee, Frans Steyn, Coenie Oosthuizen, Jannie du Plessis and JP Pietersen while Pieter-Steph du Toit, Willem Alberts and Victor Matfield have seen only limited action since their return. It is expected that all these players, apart from perhaps Steyn (pectoral muscle injury) and Sharks flank Coetzee, who has damaged knee ligaments, have been cleared for selection.

Springbok scrum coach Pieter de Villiers said that there would be five props in the World Cup group.

“We had the option of taking five or six props. We discussed it earlier this week and five was the number we settled on for the props, with three hookers.”

This would probably result in the Boks taking 17 forwards and 14 backs with Pieter-Steph du Toit included as a fourth lock (with Victor Matfield, Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager) and cover for Willem Alberts at blindside flank.

The two tightheads are expected to be Jannie du Plessis and Marcel van der Merwe (or Frans Malherbe) with Trevor Nyakane and Tendai Mtawarira the looseheads and fit-again Coenie Oosthuizen able to pack down on both sides.

The three hookers will obviously be Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss and Schalk Brits.

De Villiers said that first-choice tighthead Jannie du Plessis had fully recovered from injury.

“I thought our performance against Argentina in Buenos Aires showed how important attitude is when it comes to scrumming. We were up for it in that game so our physicality, which was lacking in Durban the week before, was there and everything fitted into place. We are in the position where we are going to leave good players who have done well out of the squad.”

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