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Cape Town - Springbok captain Jean de Villiers is on course to make his comeback to Test rugby against Argentina next weekend, but who his centre partner will be remains a mystery.
And don’t be shocked if Bok boss Heyneke Meyer springs a huge surprise next week when he names his line-up for the Rugby Championship opener at Loftus Versfeld.
While Western Province rookie Damian de Allende would appear to be the favourite to don the Bok No 13 jumper, De Villiers said on Wednesday he could just as easily be picked at outside centre while Meyer has other options in Bryan Habana and even Cornal Hendricks.
And let’s not forget De Allende is also fresh out of a stint on the sidelines with injury.
If De Villiers is declared fit - which he is hopeful of being - the conservative selection would be to utilise Jan Serfontein at 12 - a position he filled with aplomb in the June Tests - with the Bok skipper on his outside.
Meyer, though, believes De Villiers’ best position is inside centre where he can organise the backs and dictate what goes on outside him.
He said as much this week.
“Jean’s got unbelievable hands and he moves the ball around. That’s over and above his being the organiser at 12 and being able to crash it up.
“Jean can play at 13, but his best position is 12,” said Meyer.
De Villiers said he was happy to play at outside centre.
“I’m very comfortable there and will give it my best for the team. But I prefer 12,” he said on Wednesday.
It would then appear to be a fait accompli De Villiers will resume his duties in his position of choice. But that would rule out Serfontein and open the door for De Allende and possibly Habana or Hendricks.
“There are a couple of guys who can fill that slot… Bryan, who’s played 13 before, Damian and myself. Cornal (Hendricks) as well,” said the Bok leader.
“It’s down to the coaches to decide what’s best for the team… there are options.”
At least the good news coming out of the Bok camp in Joburg on Wednesday was that De Villiers is close to being fully fit again, after spending several weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury.
“It’s coming on. I’ve been running for a few weeks now and got through training okay.
“The knee has responded well and there’s been no swelling,” he said.
“It’s looking good for next week; it’s just a matter of gaining confidence in the knee now.”
With just over a year to go to the World Cup, De Villiers said he was hoping to make the most of every opportunity until then.
He will be hoping no further injuries befall him, as has been the case so many times in the past, especially in World Cup years.
“I realise I’m pretty close to being at the end of my career so I want to make what’s left of it as good as possible,” he said. “I’m really fortunate to be part of this team and to be its leader.
“If this is my last 12 months (with the Boks) I want to make it great, make everyone enjoy it.
“Winning makes it more enjoyable and hopefully we can continue to do that, finishing with the cherry on top, the World Cup.”
Argentina arrive in the country on Thursday and will spend the next 10 days in Pretoria.
The Boks wrap up their week’s preparations in Joburg on Friday before getting together again in Pretoria on Monday.
Meyer will name his side for the first Rugby Championship match on Wednesday.