Springbok captain Jean De Villiers is winning his race against time to be fit and take his place at the Rugby World Cup. De Villiers is optimistically cautious but says once he saw the team’s new jersey, specially designed for the tournament, the emotions took over: ‘Once you see the jersey, it becomes reality that everything is coming together now. For me my focus is just on my rehabilitation and getting back on the field but still a long way back for me, probably more than the others but it’s an unbelievable journey and I think the prize at the end of the day is what drives us all. We’ve got certain targets that we want to reach. I won’t put a game on it now but we have a plan in place and at this stage I’m taking it day by day and week by week.’ Despite the 34-year old’s determination not to set a target date for his return, it is rumoured the fixture against the World XV at Newlands on July 11.
De Villiers has endured rotten luck when it comes to World Cups. He missed 2003 altogether and was injured in the first fixture in 2007. He sat out some matches fours ago to boot before twisting his knee against Wales in December but he says: ‘A World Cup year is always special and you want to do everything. You want to make the most of it and make sure that you’re well prepared so I know that we will be very well prepared.’
South Africa will play a shortened Rugby Championship before jetting off to England where Heyneke Meyer’s charges start in Brighton against Japan on September 19. Meyer has held camps during Super Rugby downtime and De Villiers says it was great to be part of it: ‘It’s amazing when the Springboks get together with the vibe that’s there. Even though you might have some guys who are a little off form, suddenly they experience that again and they get that confidence back again. I’m very sure that we will be successful.’
De Villiers will hope to be in Brighton to skipper his country against the Japanese at the Rugby World Cup and ultimately lift the Webb Ellis Cup in what will be a glorious end to a stellar career in which he has already represented the Boks on 106 occasions, scoring 27 tries.