Dublin - Springbok captain Jean de Villiers has come through training in a bitterly cold Dublin and will run on in his 82nd Test when he leads the Springboks out against Ireland on Saturday.
The midfielder has been struggling with a hamstring injury for the last month but, after sitting out Monday’s training session, teamed up with his fellow Boks on Tuesday and took full part in training.
Considered the glue of the Bok team at the moment - now that so many key senior players are out injured and not on tour - De Villiers’ availability and readiness to lead the Boks on Saturday has been a major talking point.
He has, however, shaken off a hamstring injury and will, in all probability, be named alongside Jaco Taute in midfield when Heyneke Meyer names his team on Wednesday.
It will be a huge boost for a generally young and inexperienced squad playing in Europe, but besides De Villiers’ experience, the Boks will also have wing JP Pietersen back.
The 26-year-old returns to the side after missing the Rugby Championship through injury, something he said was perhaps not the worst thing that could have happened to him.
“I’m not complaining too much about the break I had, you know we play so much rugby nowadays,” he said. “I suppose I’m a little refreshed, which helps. But, yes, it was frustrating watching the guys from the sidelines and it’s just amazing to be back in the mix.”
Pietersen said he felt like “a little boy” again, something newcomer to the squad Raymond Rhule probably feels like too, even though he celebrated his 20th birthday yesterday.
When, at one stage in 2006, Pietersen made his Bok debut, and was being mentored by the likes of Bryan Habana, Jaque Fourie, Fourie du Preez, Percy Montgomery and De Villiers, the Sharks wing now has to fulfil that role for Rhule. He said it was an honour doing the job.
“Raymond’s had an amazing season and he’s got such a bright future ahead of him, but he’s going to face all sorts of challenges in the years ahead,” said Pietersen. “Now if I can help in whatever way I’d be glad. He asks a lot of questions and that’s good, it shows he wants to learn.”
Meanwhile, the Boks took part in a scrum study conducted by the International Rugby Board on Tuesday.
On Saturday against Ireland, the Springboks will for the first time play under a new scrum engagement sequence of “crouch, touch, set”, something northern hemisphere teams have been playing under for a couple of months already.