London – Jean de Villiers is set to retain the Springbok captaincy next season.
The veteran Bok centre, who earned his 84th cap against England at Twickenham on Saturday, becoming the fifth-most-capped Bok of all time, will continue in the role after assuming the captaincy in coach Heyneke Meyer’s first season in charge.
De Villiers led the side in all 12 Tests this season, and on Sunday, Meyer said the 32-year-old would be his first-choice option when the 2013 international season gets under way.
“If he can keep up the form he’s shown this season (and stays injury-free), there’s no reason why he won’t be the captain,” said Meyer yesterday.
“I’ve been very happy with Jean as captain this year. Everything worked out for the better. He’s been great for us, with such a young team. He can be hard on them (the youngsters), but he can also joke with them. I’m going to have a chat with him in the next week. He’s been an unbelievable ambassador off the field, too.”
De Villiers’s captaincy ability has never been in doubt, but he will have to fight for his place in the team, especially if Meyer is successful in getting Jaque Fourie back to South Africa from Japan. The other centre options next year will be Frans Steyn, Juan de Jongh and Jaco Taute. Big things are also expected from young SA Under-20 star Jan Serfontein.
De Villiers is one of only three players to have started every Test this season, the others being Jannie du Plessis and Francois Hougaard. He also ends the season having played 16 full games for the Stormers and 12 full Tests for the Boks, without being replaced ... a total of 2 240 minutes.
Looking back over the season, and especially at the last three weeks in Europe, Meyer said the “find” of the year was Francois Louw, a player who changed his perceptions by sheer quality of play.
“The guy who totally blew me away was Francois Louw ... the find of the season. I didn’t think a specialist openside flank was needed earlier in the year because the guys were being blown up so often in Super Rugby, but things settled down as the year went on, and Flo h as been massive for us. He’s not just a guy who steals ball, he’s a carrier too. Flo’s performances changed my perceptions for sure , but Duane (Vermuelen) has also been massive.”
The one player, more than any other though, who needed a big European tour is Pat Lambie, and it appears as if he has ticked the right boxes with Meyer.
“I thought of him as a fullback earlier in the year, but having worked with him now has changed my thoughts. He’s level-headed and never panics, and showed he can handle the kicking as well. It was a big call for me to make, but he came through fantastically.” - The Star