Cape Town – Call him the “mini-Matfield” of South African rugby, if you like.
Although long-time Springbok team-mate Victor Matfield probably takes the cake, considering that he remains a lively presence for Northampton at age 38, Jean de Villiers has hinted that he could push his own first-class career into his 37th year if he extends his current deal with Aviva Premiership club Leicester Tigers.
Should he do so, he would probably be reacquainted with another green-and-gold stalwart in JP Pietersen, who has agreed terms there from next season (2016/17) after a swansong Super Rugby campaign with the Sharks, who he first represented in 2006.
The often cruelly injury-jinxed De Villiers, who quit Test rugby after breaking his jaw again when he led the Boks in their World Cup pool match against Samoa at Villa Park a few months ago, has told a local newspaper his appetite for the game stays healthy.
That is despite the fact that the 109-cap international midfielder has not yet begun his own English campaign as he awaits the medical go-ahead to debut for the Tigers; they lie fourth on the table with seven wins from nine matches thus far.
De Villiers turns 35 on February 24, but has been reported in the Leicester Mercury (www.leicestermercury.co.uk) as saying: “I am mentally preparing myself for retirement from rugby after six months (the duration of his present deal with the club – Sport24) but I am not ruling out playing on.
“I have always said that if I am enjoying my rugby and my body can hold up, I will keep playing because it is a game I love so much.
“Down the line, I will see where it takes me. If I do decide to stay on, we will have to see whether it is here or not ... that’s a decision that the club and I will have to set down and make together if there is an opportunity.”
He also spoke of how seamlessly his family had settled in after joining him in the English midlands city.
“(De Villiers’s wife and three children) arrived recently; they have settled well and the kids are enjoying it.
“The community has been fantastic to us and have been over to welcome us. I only have good things to say about Leicestershire at the moment.”