Jean de Villiers will make his return to Test rugby when the Springboks take on Argentina in Durban this Saturday.
De Villiers made his comeback from a serious knee injury when the Boks faced a World XV side on 11 July, but did not feature in the first couple of Rugby Championship matches. After gaining game time with Western Province during two Currie Cup warm-up games, the 34-year-old will now feature in his first Test since the horror injury suffered against Wales on 29 November.
De Villiers’s return at outside centre sees Jesse Kriel move to the right wing in place of Cornal Hendricks.
De Villiers will captain a Springbok side also featuring the return of Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi in the match-day squad for the first time since 2013.
‘Jean’s comeback is truly remarkable and very inspirational and I can’t wait to see what he can offer playing next to exciting youngsters such as Handré Pollard, Damian [de Allende] and Jesse,' said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer. ‘Jean now has 160 minutes of rugby behind him since his comeback a month ago and I’m very satisfied that he will be able to make his mark as player and captain.’
Pollard has recovered sufficiently from a concussion and will continue at flyhalf, with Pat Lambie remaining on the bench.
The forwards on the bench are again rotated due to injuries and players returning from lay-offs, which sees the return of Kolisi and Du Toit, both of whom made their last Test appearance as replacements in the 19-10 victory over France in Paris at the end of 2013.
‘Siya missed most of last season because of injury and lack of form, but his attitude has been great and he’s been working incredibly hard. He's playing good rugby this year and his inclusion is in line with our decision to keep on mixing things up as we get ready for the World Cup,’ said Meyer.
‘Pieter-Steph has also been very unlucky with injuries but his rehabilitation has gone exactly to plan and he got through 40 minutes of rugby for the Sharks last weekend. It’s clear from training that he's raring to go and I have to compliment everybody involved in his rehab.’
The other changes to the team are all injury-enforced. Marcell Coetzee is back and will take over at flank from Francois Louw, while Vincent Koch will get his first start for the Boks, in place of Jannie du Plessis. Marcel van der Merwe has been brought onto the bench for his first Test of 2015, while Lwazi Mvovo is also back in the match-day squad.
Meyer added that although Fourie du Preez and Willem Alberts started training with the squad this week, it was decided to give them more time to fully recover from their injuries. Warren Whiteley, Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff were also given more time to recover from their injuries.
‘They are not 100% ready yet and with the World Cup now six weeks away, we decided against risking them in this match. Whenever the time is right for them to play again, we’ll select them,’ said Meyer.
The other injured players not considered for selection were JP Pietersen, Victor Matfield, Louw and Du Plessis.
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix