Jean de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Durban - Jean de Villiers’ brave and long battle to overcome
injury is expected to be rewarded on Friday evening when he is named as captain
of Heyneke Meyer’s 31-man Springbok squad for the Rugby World Cup in England.
De Villiers is one of a number of senior Springboks who
have played little or no rugby in recent weeks and face late fitness
assessments before the squad is finalised and announced.
De Villiers suffered a career-threatening knee injury in
Cardiff last November and eight months of rehabilitation saw him return for the
Springboks’ Rugby Championship Test against the Pumas at King’s Park on August
A fractured jaw in that international, involving a healing period of between
four and six weeks, again cast doubt on his participation in the World Cup.
Complicating Meyer’s selection problem was the Rugby
Championship form shown by the new and young midfield pairing of Damian de
Allende and Jesse Kriel.
This has led to speculation that De Villiers’
selection would be a disruption, just as the inclusion of a limping Bob
Skinstad ahead of long-serving captain Gary Teichmann derailed the 1999 World
The coaching staff and the medical team are playing their
cards close to their chests regarding the availability of the De Villiers and
the others who have been medically boarded, but one of the Springboks told The
Witness on Wednesday that “Jean will definitely be in the squad.”
“Duane (Vermeulen), Francois (Louw) and Fourie (Du Preez)
will also there, no problem,” he added.
Team doctor Craig Roberts certainly hinted that all was
well medically in the Bok squad at the weekend though the lack of match
practice of at least a dozen players remains a concern.
Roberts had always been confident that De Villiers would
be ready for the World Cup, pointing out that while the Springbok captain would
not be able to take contact for a couple of weeks, he was able to continue his fitness training and the rehab work on
Still, the rugby public remains divided over whether De
Villiers, short of game-time, should captain the team when his place in the
starting line-up is not guaranteed.
It appears Meyer is satisfied that De Villiers is ready.
With veteran Jaque Fourie declaring himself unavailable for the World Cup, and
Frans Steyn’s involvement in some doubt, Meyer patently lacks midfield
experience. De Villiers obviously provides that in heaps while he can play at either
inside or outside centre and remains one of the most respected captains, on and
off the field, in world rugby.
The other injured players who have been sidelined, some
for weeks and others for months, are Fourie du Preez, Duane Vermeulen, Francois
Louw, Marcell Coetzee, Frans Steyn, Coenie Oosthuizen, Jannie du Plessis and JP
Pietersen while Pieter-Steph du Toit, Willem Alberts and Victor Matfield have
seen only limited action since their return. It is expected that all these
players, apart from perhaps Steyn (pectoral muscle injury) and Sharks flank
Coetzee, who has damaged knee ligaments, have been cleared for selection.
scrum coach Pieter de Villiers said that there would be five props in
the World Cup group.
the option of taking five or six props. We discussed it earlier this week
and five was the number we settled on for the props, with three hookers.”
would probably result in the Boks taking 17 forwards and 14 backs with
Pieter-Steph du Toit included as a fourth lock (with Victor Matfield, Eben
Etzebeth and Lood de Jager) and cover for Willem Alberts at blindside flank.
tightheads are expected to be Jannie du Plessis and Marcel van der Merwe (or
Frans Malherbe) with Trevor Nyakane and Tendai Mtawarira the looseheads and
fit-again Coenie Oosthuizen able to pack down on both sides.
three hookers will obviously be Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss and Schalk
Villiers said that first-choice tighthead Jannie du Plessis had fully recovered
thought our performance against Argentina in Buenos Aires showed how important
attitude is when it comes to scrumming. We were up for it in that game so our
physicality, which was lacking in Durban the week before, was there and
everything fitted into place. We are in the position where we are going to
leave good players who have done well out of the squad.”