Multi-skilled Jean impresses Smith

All Blacks centre Conrad Smith says Jean de Villiers has earned respect as a player and a person.

De Villiers will become the fifth Springbok to play 100 Tests when he runs out in Wellington on Saturday. He will be hoping to mark the occasion with a ninth win against the All Blacks in 22 appearances, and add to his tally of five tries.

Smith, who will be earning his 80th cap on Saturday, says his opponent's versatility is behind his longevity.

'Like most midfielders who play over a long period of time you have to be quite versatile.

'He's a big guy and his physicality is strong, but his running lines, his ability to use his feet, his passing game … all those things are massive attributes. That's the only way you survive as a midfielder because if you are a one-trick pony you get worked out pretty quick.

'You can have a good couple of years, but unless you find another few parts to your game you get worked out and someone else will take your spot. The fact he's been playing as long as I've been playing shows how multi-skilled he is.'

Smith said De Villiers was the first opposition player he really struck up a relationship with.

'After games he was always quick to come and have a word with me right from the start.

'He's one of the nicer guys you get to play against, so to see him get 100 Tests is huge. I wish he was playing against someone else because I'd love him to win.'

De Villiers also values the friendships he's made with Smith and other New Zealanders.

'With 100 coming up you look back at your career and think of all the games you've played, but what's stood out for me is times like being with the Barbarians and meeting a guy like Kevvy [Keven Mealamu],' he said. 'My time at Munster playing with Doug Howlett, becoming friends with a guy you have played against so many times before.

'And on Saturday playing against Ma'a [Nonu] and Conrad and having played them so many times before. In a weird way you build up a relationship and a friendship, in a weird sense, and definitely respect. So it is nice to play against them again and for the old battle to continue. If we can have a drink after and hopefully just celebrate my 100th game.'

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Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

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Simon Borchardt