Jean de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Jean de Villiers lasted just five minutes on his international debut against France in 2002 before leaving the field with torn knee ligaments.
It would be a familiar sight in the years to come, but the 34-year-old remembers that day in Marseille vividly.
"I remember it very well. It was quite a short Test," De Villiers joked.
"And, surprise surprise, it ended in injury. I started my Test career at No 13 with an injury and I finished it No 13 with an injury."
The 109-Test veteran is back in South Africa receiving treatment for the fractured jaw that ruled him out of this year's Rugby World Cup.
"I remember Rudolf Straeuli (then-Bok coach) telling me I was going to start that game. And then I remember driving on the team bus to the game... you go through everything. You go through your schooling career... everything."
De Villiers remembers being in a state of disbelief on that bus ride.
"I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that I was a Springbok. And even back then if you told me that I was going to play 109 games for South Africa and I was going to be captain of South Africa I would have told you that you were on drugs," he said.
"I’m looking back now and I’m just so fortunate. I’m such a happy man and I’ve had unbelievable people in my life."
De Villiers, who was replaced in the World Cup squad by Jan Serfontein, will be back in England in the next couple of weeks to work with the Boks in an advisory role.