De Villiers to play off bench?

2015-07-07 08:16
Boks captain Jean de Villiers. PHOTO: Steve Haag / Gallo Images

Johannesburg - Skipper Jean de Villiers is set to play for the Springboks on Saturday -- eight months after a knee injury threatened to end his rugby career.

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) said the 34-year-old inside centre would be considered for selection when the team to play a World XV in Cape Town is named on Wednesday.

Reports have hinted at De Villiers coming off the bench during the second half at Newlands for his first match since being injured during a Test defeat by Wales in Cardiff last November.

"Jean has worked incredibly hard with the Springbok and Stormers medical teams to regain match fitness," said coach Heyneke Meyer.

"We have got a plan for how to manage his return, which could involve matches for his province as well."

And there was more good news for Meyer as he prepares for a five-match countdown to the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off on September 18 in England.

Centre Lionel Mapoe, flyhalf/full-back Patrick Lambie, scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, lock Lood de Jager and flank Schalk Burger have recovered from injuries and can play in Cape Town.

The availability of De Villiers and Mapoe is particularly heartening as Meyer had only two fit centres - Damian de Allende and JP Pietersen - in his original squad.

And while De Allende has been in good form in Super Rugby, converted 2007 World Cup-winning wing Pietersen has not.

It was an encouraging end to a day that began disastrously for Meyer when he was told that star No 8 Duane Vermeulen needed an operation for a neck injury and was a World Cup doubt.

Vermeulen will have surgery on Wednesday and team doctor Craig Roberts admitted the giant forward faced a race against the clock to be fit for the global rugby showpiece.

"This is a huge setback," admitted Meyer. "As with any injury, it is something we simply have to overcome.

"That Duane is a world-class player was underlined last year when he was named South African Rugby Player of the Year and nominated for World Rugby Player of the Year.

"He is among the leaders in our squad and since making his debut in 2012 has become an integral member of the team."

Roberts said: "Duane will be put on an intensive post-operation rehabilitation programme and we will work tirelessly to get him ready for the World Cup.

"Player welfare is very important which is why we made the decision for Duane to undergo surgery. It is the best medium- and long-term career option."

Another Springbok star likely to miss all the build-up matches is veteran scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, who was injured training with his Japanese club.

After the World XV exhibition game, South Africa play Australia away and New Zealand and Argentina at home in a shortened Rugby Championship.

A Test in Argentina on August 15 completes the schedule before World Cup Pool B games against Japan, Samoa, Scotland and the United States.

British bookmakers have installed title-holders New Zealand as favourites to lift the trophy on October 31 in London with South Africa and England considered the strongest challengers.


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