Jean signs for Tigers

2015-11-04 06:00
Former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, who recently announced his retirement from international rugby, has signed to play for Leicester Tigers. PHOTO: gallo images

Former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, who recently announced his retirement from international rugby, has signed to play for Leicester Tigers. PHOTO: gallo images

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SPRINGBOK centre Jean de Villiers, who announced his retirement from Test rugby after breaking his jaw in the Rugby World Cup pool game against Samoa, is to extend his career by at least six months after signing a contract with English club Leicester Tigers.

Leicester confirmed yesterday that the 34-year-old De Villiers had finally signed after prolonged negotiations and he will join the Premiership club in December.

De Villiers, who has 109 Test caps, said on his retirement that he would never play for a SA team again.

The WP centre fought his way back from a horrific knee injury to be named SA World Cup captain, but his tournament ended after the Springboks’ second round win over Samoa on September 26. He returned to South Africa for treatment to his fractured jaw, but he flew back to London a week later to provide support for his team-mates.

De Villiers is South Africa’s most-capped centre and has twice been named South Africa player of the year (2008 and 2013).

Leicester’s director of rugby Richard Cockerill said yesterday that De Villiers would bring invaluable experience to his squad.

“He is among the leading centres in the modern game and has played at the very highest level for a significant period of time.

“In recent seasons, we’ve brought in players like Brad Thorn and Lote Tuqiri from successful environments in the Southern Hemisphere and they have continued to make a significant contribution here.

“The signing of Jean is another move in that style and we look forward to welcoming him and his family to the Tigers and to him starting work with us on December 1.”

De Villiers will join the powerful England centre Manu Tuilagi in the Leicester midfield. The Samoa-born Tuilagi missed the World Cup because of a long-term groin injury.

Meanwhile, coach Heyneke Meyer has an awkward choice ahead of the third place playoff against the Pumas, a contest he has described as “meaningless” but which he desperately needs to win as pressure on him mounts.

A number of players, among them Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger and Fourie du Preez, are expected to retire after the World Cup and Meyer will be reluctant to deny them a farewell outing. Wing Bryan Habana is also within one try of breaking Jonah Lomu’s World Cup record and he is likely to be given a run.

But Meyer will also want to give a number of the fringe players, and the youngsters in the squad, an outing after weeks on the sidelines. The team will be named later today.

Welshman Nigel Owens has been named as the referee for Saturday’s final between Australia and New Zealand at Twickenham (6 pm) while Irishman John Lacey is named to take charge of South Africa’s third-place playoff against Argentina at the Olympic Stadium (10 pm) on ­Friday.

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