Jean de Villiers’ 51st Springbok Test could well be his last in South Africa.
De Villiers, who will become the most capped centre in Springbok history on Saturday, has signed a one-year deal with an option to extend by two with Irish club Munster, and will join them after the Currie Cup.
Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has been reluctant to select overseas-based players, and on Tuesday he reinforced his preference for locally-based players.
‘SA Rugby don’t have a policy on selecting or not selecting overseas-based players,’ he told keo.co.za. ‘It’s my policy to first look at players here [in South Africa], who are good enough and can be good role models to our people. If there aren’t any I’ll look abroad.’
If Peter de Villiers finds an inside centre that fits that criteria, Jean de Villiers may be playing his farewell Test match at his home ground. However, where that player will come from remains a mystery as there are no 12s in domestic rugby kicking down the Springboks’ door.
Within the squad there are also concerns. Wynand Olivier has been courted by numerous foreign clubs, and is yet to make a decision about his future. The Bulls have reportedly offered him a lucrative deal, while Western Province are also reportedly slinging silly money at him to move to the Cape.
If he stays in South Africa he could entrench himself in the Springboks’ starting line-up, and that must be appealing when considering his future.
Adi Jacobs has replaced Jean de Villiers in the last couple of Tests, but serious doubts remain about his defensive ability, especially in a channel that demands solidity in that facet of play.
Frans Steyn, who excelled at 12 in the 2007 World Cup, was another option, but he too has opted to test himself in Europe with Paris-based Racing Metro, and has also put himself at risk of non-selection.
Jean de Villiers has stressed that he wants to play at the World Cup in New Zealand, which makes the likelihood of him returning to South Africa after a year in Limerick, strong. Expect him to ditch the Irish should he get the sense that he may miss out on selection for the tournament. The World Cup holds special appeal for the 28-year-old as he’s twice sustained injuries which have ended his participation therein.
Still, you have be cognisant of the fact that there is a possibility that De Villiers’ 51st Test may well be his last at home. It would be a shame to lose a player of his class and experience. But that’s the price Peter de Villiers, and those in administrators in Australia and New Zealand who hold the same view, have to pay for their selection policy.
By Ryan Vrede, in Cape Town