Johannesburg - The prognosis on Springbok captain Jean de Villiers’ fitness ahead of next weekend’s Rugby Championship opener against Argentina took a positive lift with the news that De Villiers himself feels he will be fit and ready for the opening game, reports the supersport.com website.
Much has been made of the fitness of De Villiers and whether or not he should have been released to play in the Absa Currie Cup this weekend, especially after three months on the sidelines with a knee injury.
Given that Victor Matfield has been ruled out of action for next week as well with injury, the Boks suddenly needed to contemplate a backup plan for De Villiers if he is injured and a new captain has to be found.
Ten days out from the game it is easy to see why the concern still exists, even though De Villiers was more than upbeat about his chances on Wednesday.
“It’s good,” De Villiers said in terms of his injury, “I’ve been running a lot in the last couple of weeks and especially this week it has come along a lot. Yesterday I came through the full session and it responded well today, so it is going well. “It is looking much better than what I initially thought, at this stage it’s looking good for next week.”
De Villiers said he had not contemplated returning to the Currie Cup, as Eben Etzebeth and Frans Malherbe have done to get in some game time this weekend, and given De Villiers’ maturity, the decision is likely to be left to him and team doctor Craig Roberts next week.
“No not really, I think if I’m fit and if the knee is ready to go, whether it’s Currie Cup, Super Rugby or Test rugby, from a fitness point of view I think I’m good. I’ve been doing a lot of cardio and that’s good, so it’s now just getting confidence with the knee again.”
De Villiers is highly rated by coach Heyneke Meyer and it’s not difficult to see why. The form he displayed last year in the Rugby Championship was enough to easily win him the SA Rugby Player award.
Meyer favours strong, experienced leaders and De Villiers’ style of play, as well as his ease in the position, has won him many fans for his captaincy.
The biggest question now will still be who will partner him in the midfield, and while Damian de Allende is the obvious choice, De Villiers threw the names of Bryan Habana and Cornal Hendricks – both of whom have played centre in their careers – into the mix.
However, given the lack of wings in the squad as well, it would be a strange choice to use either of the wings, with De Allende still the favourite to start at 13.