Cape Town – Jean de Villiers is better qualified than most
to judge Springbok preparedness for the customary end-of-year European trek.
The 102-cap national team leader has been part of northern
hemisphere tours pretty consistently for the 12 years since 2002, when he made
his luckless debut against France, tearing knee ligaments just a few minutes
So it must have been heartening to many Bok enthusiasts on
Thursday night to hear De Villiers say on the SuperSport rugby chat show Boots & All of the touring squad:
“We are very well prepared ... probably the best we have been for an
“Most of us have had an important mental rest as well, away
from the pressure situations of semi-finals, finals (in the Currie Cup).
Sometimes you just need that gap.”
Half-jocularly, he suggested in reference to the recent
Boland camp for contracted Boks: “I guess some guys would’ve preferred to play
Currie Cup – it was quite hot in Stellenbosch, we ran a lot, but it is a time
of year where you need to pick up in the conditioning, or get rid of niggles,
if you have them, with a bit of rehab too.”
De Villiers said the five new caps – three from the Lions
and two from Western Province – had brought “fresh energy” with their addition
after the Currie Cup showpiece.
“It’s great (watching them) ... they don’t want to do anything
wrong; they make dead sure they wear the right clothing, and arrive half an
hour early for (squad obligations)!”
The 33-year-old captain said he believed the squad boasted
“great depth in probably all positions” and pointed out that incumbents of Bok
jerseys would not wish to surrender them lightly during the four-match tour.
“There are only eight games now to the World Cup, so players
can’t afford to lose that shirt ... it will be tough to get it back.”
De Villiers also defended the decision by Heyneke Meyer to
take a 36-strong party, something criticised by former coach Peter de Villiers
earlier this week.
“It’s good to have 15 versus 15 from a training and
preparation point of view, and you always have to take into account that a
couple of guys might be injured. You don’t want your first XV having to train
against only 13, for instance.”
He said that although first opponents Ireland (in Dublin
next Saturday) were “on a bit of a high” through their status as Six Nations
champions, his charges were “backing ourselves, our systems”.
“We will be aiming for four out of four ... it is a bonus
that we’ve played three or four games in the wet already in the (Castle Rugby)
“Our consistency is better now than in some previous years:
we’re winning games where we’re not necessarily playing that well.”
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing