Jean shrugs off critics

Jean de Villiers won’t let last week’s slip-ups dent his confidence ahead of the second Test against England.

“Besides those mistakes, I feel I had a good game,” he told keo.co.za. “It was a great improvement on the Ireland match, with Wynand Olivier and I enjoying a good partnership in the midfield. We made more tackles and were effective in slowing down their ball.”

One of the Springboks’ star players, De Villiers made two bad decisions in the 21-23 defeat at Twickenham last Saturday. The first was failing to link up with Akona Ndungane on his inside and complete his initial 65m interception with a five-pointer. The second was allowing the Poms a man advantage when he was sinbinned in the second half.

Speaking about the interception that was snuffed out by a brilliant cover tackle by Josh Lewsey, De Villiers was understandably despondent.

“Basically, I had three or four options in a situation like that, and I didn’t take any of them,” he laments. “I just did nothing. I had the option to play the ball inside; I could also have had a go for the line by charging him to allow myself more room to score; or even the chip kick inside wouldn’t have been a bad choice.

“In the end I just made it an easy tackle for Lewsey. It’s disappointing, but I can’t let that affect my confidence when I run out again this Saturday.”

De Villiers is not a player who has obtained many yellow cards in his career, and he admits that this rare caution cost his side dearly.

“I was off just before half-time to get a cut above my eye stitched; so I wasn’t in the changing room and wasn’t aware we were on our last warning,” he explains. “It’s funny how things happen in rugby sometimes.

“But I regret what I did, as ultimately it cost us a lot in that game. It was a terrible decision on my part.”

The Bok No 12 is now bent on ensuring the visitors don’t leave the UK empty handed, with the final Test of the tour just a couple of days away. Both centre combinations remain intact for this fixture, and De Villiers expects much of the same from England’s Jamie Noon and Mathew Tait.

“I thought they were quite solid in the previous game. Mathew Tait is a great young talent, and Jamie Noon proved to be a hard runner to keep in check at inside centre.

“We have a new flyhalf again this week with Andre [Pretorius]coming in, but this shouldn’t disrupt us at all. It’s a great loss that Butch is injured, but Andre is also a fantastic player and I don’t think much will change in the way we plan to play.”

By Jon Cardinelli, in London