Jean de Villiers can’t wait to play alongside international newcomers Handré Pollard and Damian de Allende at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI in Pretoria, reports.
The Test at Loftus will mark De Villiers’s first in 2014. A serious knee injury sustained during the Super Rugby competition sidelined him for the duration of the June internationals. In fact, he only finished his rehabilitation programme this past week, and there were fears that he would not be ready for the opening game of the Rugby Championship.
On Friday, De Villiers went out of his way to allay those fears. The Springbok captain is adamant that he is fit and match ready, despite not playing a competitive game since May.
De Villiers said that he was excited about playing Test rugby again, and about the prospect of starting next to Pollard, a gifted young flyhalf playing in only his second match, and De Allende, who will be making his international debut at outside centre.
Both Pollard and De Allende have said this week that they look up to De Villiers as a player and as a leader. On Friday, De Villiers turned the tables, declaring that the two youngsters had impressed him in the past two weeks and that he would be feeding off their energy at Loftus on Saturday.
‘There will be no baby-sitting,’ De Villiers said. ‘I’ve played a lot of rugby alongside Damian at the Stormers and I know what he can do. Handré ticks all the boxes as a world-class flyhalf. I’m excited about playing next to those guys.
‘I know they will be looking to make the most of their opportunity. But then so will I. It’s great to be back, and I have noticed a new energy in the side.
'For me, it’s about starting again after that long break. I’m as young as the guys on my inside and outside. That’s how I feel. And like them, I also feel I have something to prove.’
Prior to injury, De Villiers was playing the best rugby of his career. Indeed, the Bok captain was one of the team’s most consistent performers in a 2013 season that yielded 10 wins in 12 Tests.
The fact that he was 32 did not impact negatively on his performance. A year older in 2014, De Villiers is determined to prove once again that a player should be judged on performance rather than age.
He will have the opportunity to do so against Argentina in the next two weeks; two matches that will serve as good preparation for the clashes against the Wallabies and All Blacks in September.
‘Argentina have probably got their best team together for this Saturday’s match,’ he said. ‘They will challenge our defence, but I’m looking forward to that challenge.’
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