Cape Town - Jean de Villiers is set for an emotional return to rugby when he comes off the bench against the World XV at Newlands on Saturday.
Almost eight months have passed since De Villiers left the Cardiff pitch in a heap of agony. On that dreadful day - the Boks also lost 12-6 - and in the days that followed it appeared that the Springbok captain would not recover from his knee injury in time for the September World Cup.
But now, ahead of schedule, De Villiers is ready to take to the field again and prove that he is still good enough to be selected in the World Cup squad.
Victor Matfield will captain the side on Saturday, even if De Villiers comes off the bench. That, according to Boks coach Heyneke Meyer, was De Villiers' own request. He does not want to be selected because he is the captain, but rather because he is good enough.
This week in Cape Town the respect for De Villiers and his recovery was a common theme among both his team-mates and opponents.
"I'm getting goosebumps now," Matfield said when talking about De Villiers' return.
"I think it's just amazing the way he came back, the way he's been training. We all thought he would just make it for the World Cup but now it's almost two months before the World Cup and he'll get onto the field.
"It's just been amazing and for him let's just see him get through those 20 (minutes) and get his confidence back. He's a very important part of this whole campaign."
Meyer also acknowledged the emotion of the occasion.
great to see Jean back. I’m serious, I probably didn’t think it was going to be
in this game," Meyer said.
"He’s really worked hard and is an inspiration to the nation. He
shows that if you have a dream anything is possible. He’ll probably only come
on in the last 20 to 25 minutes.
"We don’t want to push him too hard. Especially
at Newlands it is going to be special for him. I hope and pray he will get
through this game and we’re very positive. He’s looked sharp at training and
has gained a lot of speed."
World XV centre JJ Engelbrecht, not in the Bok setup, also weighed in.
"It's awesome. I'm no doctor but by the spunds of it they almost pulled off a miracle," said Engelbrecht.
"I'm excited to see him back on the pitch and I'm happy for him that he'll be able to go the World Cup if he passes this first fitess test."
Saturday's clash kicks off at 17:00.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Oupa Mohoje, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jean de Villiers
15 Delon Armitage, 14 Lachlan Turner, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 David Smith, 10 Mike Harris, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Bakkies Botha (captain), 4 Ali Williams, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp
Substitutes: 16 David Roumieu, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Flip Van der Merwe, 20 Louis-Benoit Madaule, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Rudi Wulf