Jean de Villiers shared some words of wisdom and inspiration with the Junior Springbok class of 2022 before the upcoming U20 Summer Series in Italy.
De Villiers was part of the South Africa U21 squad which won the U21 World Championship in 2002 on home soil, alongside future Springboks Fourie du Preez and Ashwin Willemse.
That was the start of a national career during which he won over 100 caps for the Springboks and captained the national team during the 2015 World Cup.
Two decades since playing for the Junior Springboks for the first time, De Villiers adressed the class of 2022 during the official capping ceremony in Stellenbosch on Tuesday.
“I can still vividly remember my time when I sat right there were you are sitting now,” De Villiers recalled.
“My time with the SA U21 team was a fantastic and enjoyable period in my rugby life, and that time was definitely the highlight of my early rugby career.
“The hard work really starts from here because you will have to show, through your conduct on and off the field, that you are deserving to be here and that you have the ability and mentality to kick on from here.”
Apart from urging the young men to grab their opportunities with both hands, De Villiers also reminded the Junior Springboks to enjoy the occasion.
“You have done well to be selected, the rugby will be hard and expectations high, but do remember to enjoy the occasion because playing for your country is a special occasion,” he said.
“So, well done on your selection and I want to wish you everything of the best as you launch your international careers.”
The Junior Springbok squad will have one more training day in Stellenbosch on Wednesday and, after a short break, then reassemble on Sunday before flying out to Italy on Monday evening.
The Junior Boks will open their summer series commitments against England on Friday, 24 June, to be followed by their second match on Wednesday, 29 June against Ireland.
The South Africans will complete their pool fixtures on Tuesday, 5 July against France before playing a final cross-pool fixture one week later, on Tuesday, 12 July, with their opponents to be determined according to the final standings.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images