If replaced, De Villiers will be sorely missed

2013-06-19 00:00

JEAN de Villiers, if he is laid low by injury, will be sorely missed by the Springboks when they face Samoa in the Incoming Series final at Loftus on Saturday, veteran wing Bryan Habana said yesterday.

De Villiers is nursing a rib injury and will face a fitness test before the team is named today. Young Jan Serfontein is an obvious replacement at inside centre, with either hooker Adriaan Strauss or flank Francois Louw taking over the captaincy.

“Jean has played a lot of rugby and he probably should have come off in the game [in Nelspruit],” coach Heyneke Meyer said. “If he is not 100% fit, he will not play.”

Habana paid a glowing tribute to De Villiers yesterday and said that the Springbok centre did not receive the credit he deserved as captain.

“Jean was unbelievable against Scotland. He received the injury in the first 10 minutes and fought through to the end,” Habana said.

“He made some bold calls throughout that game and he led the team exceptionally well.”

He said that De Villiers, if withdrawn, would leave a gaping hole, which the other senior members of the team would have to fill.

Both Habana and forward coach Johann van Graan said that Samoa had improved dramatically since 2011 when the Springboks beat them 13-5.

Habana, who scored the Boks’ only try that day, said that the Samoan game was probably the most physical at the RWC.

“But they are now a totally different, more skilful team. They’ve improved massively over the past two years and they’ve showed that in this series.”

The Samoans out-muscled the Scots to win the series opener in Durban and then thumped the Italians in Nelspruit.

“Their top level players are playing in the Super Rugby and European leagues and they’ve learnt a lot,” said Habana.

Van Graan agreed that the Samoans had developed their rugby and were more tactically aware.

“They have a simple game plan, but they execute it well, especially from broken field. You don’t just have to watch their backs. Their forwards are pretty big units and they can carry the ball.

“They’ve definitely gained a lot and they are good at the breakdown,” said the assistant coach.

The Springboks will again have to adapt to a northern hemisphere referee in the final, with John Lacey [Ireland] taking charge.

The Scots, not always legally, turned the breakdown into a bunfight in Nel­spruit and Van Graan said the Springboks would have to adapt more effectively on Saturday.

“In the first Test [against Italy], we were pretty happy with the breakdowns, but all credit to Scotland, who slowed our ball down in the first 40 minutes,” Van Graan said.

“We’ve got to adapt quicker to the interpretation and clean out more effectively at the breakdown.

“Teams test the referee. It’s not about moaning about it afterwards. We’ve got to sort it out on the field.

“There are instances that people get away with stuff and I’m sure we get away with things as well.”

He said that the pressure was on the Boks to fix their own breakdown problems, rather than relying on the referee.

The clash at Loftus kicks off at 5.15 pm on Saturday.

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