Jean’s World Cup in doubt

Injured Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers may not recover in time for the World Cup, reports JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff.

De Villiers dislocated his knee in the 12-6 loss to Wales last Saturday. It’s since been confirmed that De Villiers has sustained significant ligament damage. He has also torn his hamstring.

The midfielder returned to Cape Town on Monday, and will visit a specialist to discuss his options. However, the initial feeling is De Villiers will be sidelined for some time and may miss the 2015 World Cup. His career and time with the Boks may be over.

Speaking to the media on Sunday, Heyneke Meyer was evidently more concerned about De Villiers than the defeat to Wales. The Bok coach described De Villiers’s injury as ‘an unbelievable setback’. Meyer gave the impression the Boks are likely to travel to England next September with a different captain.

‘I don’t know if he’s going to make it,’ said the sombre-looking Bok coach. ‘I can’t speak on behalf of Jean and the medical team, and there will be an update at a later stage. But when I first saw the injury on my TV monitor at the stadium, I knew it [that the injury was serious]. It’s a huge injury.

‘Jean has been there before with injuries and he’s a fighter. He’s very positive at the moment, but what I respect about him is that he said “it’s not about me, if I’m there [at the World Cup] it’s a bonus”. I think we need to wait for all the details from the scan. We will do all we can and are hoping for the best.’

De Villiers tore his bicep in the opening game of the 2007 World Cup, and was forced to miss the rest of the tournament. His involvement in the 2011 competition was also limited because of injuries. It now seems likely De Villiers will be denied one final crack at the global tournament because of his latest ailment.

Meyer confirms that the player has tried to remain positive, and was even cracking jokes with teammates after returning from the hospital on Saturday night. Meyer said the team as a group has been hit hard by the incident.

‘He is such a huge part of the team,’ said Meyer. ‘You could see how slowly we started this year when Jean was missing [because of injury]. Victor Matfield stepped in as captain, but he was also coming back to the international game after two years and settling into a new team culture.

‘Jean is the one guy I always said must go to the World Cup. He’s been playing some great rugby, but he is a massively important part of the team and culture.

'It’s a big emotional setback, not only for Jean and the team but for me as well. You grow and develop a team and the captain plays such a big role in that. Even on this tour, where we didn’t get all the results we wanted, the culture was strengthened and we grew closer as a group.’

While Meyer hasn’t given up hope, he has already identified a possible replacement. If De Villiers does not recover in time, Matfield will lead the Boks at the World Cup.

‘I’m glad we brought back Victor [out of retirement]. We have to look after him now [at Super Rugby level]. He’s played a lot of rugby this year. We can’t afford to lose a player like that before a World Cup.’

Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

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