‘Now I need to perform’

Jean de Villiers says his injury misfortune has made him a stronger person and that he is determined to make the most of his final home Test, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

The Bok captain will make his return to Test rugby when he leads the team out against Argentina in Durban on Saturday, having fully recovered from the horror knee injury sustained at the end of last year.

The 34-year-old is expected to retire from international rugby after this year’s World Cup, and will play his last game on home soil at a venue where his Bok captaincy career began back in 2012.

‘It’s unbelievable to be back playing and to be captain again,’ De Villiers said. ‘It’s very special. It brings back memories, my first time doing a press conference as Springbok captain was in Durban, and now I’m back here again. Every time you put the Bok jersey on it’s special, but there were certainly times during the eight months when I didn’t think I’d get here again. To be here now just shows that through hard work anything is achievable.’

De Villiers said he had now put the injury behind him and that his focus was just on performing for the team.

‘Every game could be your last. That's what I realised last year with this injury, you've got to play as if it's your last game and make the most of it, but the reality is that this will be my last game in South Africa. I can't see myself playing international rugby next year.’

Although De Villiers has had a history of injury misfortune, particularly at World Cup tournaments, the veteran centre said these setbacks had taught him a lot.

‘It’s helped shape me into the person I am today, and I’ve learned so much as a result of those hardships … I’ve had bad luck at past World Cups, but whereas I was injured at previous tournaments, I’ve now been injured beforehand. So hopefully I can make it to the World Cup and stay there, but to do that I need to perform well enough to make the 31-man squad.

'That’s essentially what it’s about, the emotion is out of it now, I’ve made my comeback and I’m not injured anymore. Enough time has been wasted on that and the responsibility is to perform and show that the coach made a good decision in selecting me, as is the case with all players.’

Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

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