‘I still have to earn World Cup spot’

Jean de Villiers says the World Cup is a long way away and that he will have to fight for his place. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

After nearly eight months out of the game as the result of a horror knee injury, De Villiers made his highly-anticipated return against the World XV on Saturday, playing the final 20 minutes of the match.

However, the regular Bok captain said he was taking nothing for granted, acknowledging the impressive performances from the new midfield pairing of Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel.

‘It’s still a long way for me to get to the World Cup, there are a lot of boxes I have to tick. From a performance point of view I still need to improve a lot, especially if you look at the great performance of Damian and Jesse.

‘It won’t just be a walk-in, I have to earn my place, and I still have a long way to be at an elite level and good enough to form part of that squad.’

De Villiers will now join up with the Western Province team, with the aim of getting some more game-time in their Currie Cup warm-up matches.

‘We’ve got a plan in place, but I’m just so happy I got through this first game and I’m so grateful for the support I’ve got from everyone. It’s still a process and I’m still far off the final product … We’ll also now have to see how the knee reacts and if there’s any swelling.’

De Villiers said it had been an emotional experience taking to the Newlands turf after so long out of the game.

‘It was just so nice to be back on the field, it’s always great to return and be able to play with a whole bunch of mates, and especially at Newlands made it really special. It’s been a long few months, but it’s just nice to get through the game.

‘There were some doubts, and I’m sure there always will at the beginning. But the only way to get through that is by playing, taking a few knocks again, and getting used to those situations on the rugby field that can’t be simulated in training. I got through it nicely, though, and when you’re in action you forget about the knee, and it didn’t take me long to be dead tired,’ he added with a laugh.

Photo: Luke Walker/Gallo Images

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