Durban - Jean de Villiers has a lot to prove on Saturday when he leads the Springboks against Argentina at Kings Park, but he has already won the approval of his opposite number Marcelo Bosch.
De Villiers is returning to the starting line-up in a Test for the first time since November last year when he suffered a knee injury that threatened to end his career against Wales in Cardiff.
But Bosch (31) is a fan, and he believes De Villiers still has much to offer the Boks.
“I think that everybody in the rugby world is happy that he’s back. For me it is always a big challenge to play against him,” the Saracens-based player said.
“I admire him a lot. He’s very experienced and a very good player. It’s always incredible for me when I face players like him.”
That said, Bosch had also been impressed with Jesse Kriel’s introduction to Test rugby at outside centre.
Kriel was moved to the right wing for Saturday’s game to accommodate De Villiers’ return.
“He’s (Kriel) impressed me a lot and I can imagine he’s impressed everybody. His first two Test matches were against the two - with South Africa - best teams in the world,” said Bosch.
“We’ll have to be at our best in our defence if we want to stop him.”
Argentina have never beaten the Springboks, and Bosch acknowledged that playing in the Rugby Championship was extremely difficult.
When asked if he thought that the Pumas were closing the gap on their southern hemisphere rivals, he was frank.
“Some weekends we feel that yes, we are closing the gap, and some weekend we feel that we are further,” Bosch said.
“We know that if we don’t play at 100% in every aspect of the game we are far from them. We know that they are better teams than us but we always have our hopes and we are confident in what we are doing.”
Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:05.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Lwazi Mvovo
15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Jerónimo De la Fuente, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustín Creevy (captain), 1 Marcos Ayerza
Substitutes: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Matías Díaz, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Tomás Lezana, 21 Martín Landajo, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino