Meyer: Jean could be Bok great
20 Jun 2012
Jean de Villiers will lead the Springboks for the remainder of the 2012 season, and there is a strong chance that he will be entrusted with the job on a long-term basis.
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer initially made De Villiers the captain for the England series and was expected to name a long-term skipper ahead of the Rugby Championship. But De Villiers has impressed Meyer with his leadership on and off the field, and it is felt that he is the right man to take the Boks forward.
‘I knew about his captaincy when I coached teams against him, I’ve always thought he was a great leader,’ said Meyer. ‘But now that I’ve spent some time with him over the past three weeks, I realise that he is an unbelievable captain.
‘I want this team to settle and I want them to know who their leader is. It’s taken a special effort to bring this side together in a short space of time, and in that way Jean has impressed me.
‘He has the respect of the players and is a great ambassador for South African rugby on and off the field. In the end it was an easy decision.’
De Villiers played an important leadership role in the build up to the 2007 World Cup, and was also influential in the series win against the British & Irish Lions as well as the 2009 Tri-Nations victory.
He succeeds great South African leaders John Smit and Victor Matfield, the latter player a former disciple of Meyer during his days at the Bulls. Meyer believes De Villiers has the potential to be as good as, if not better, than Smit or Matfield.
‘He’s already up there with the best of them, and he can be one of the best Bok captains ever. We are planning for the future and we felt there wasn’t enough time to announce the captain before the Rugby Championship. We have to start preparing now.
‘When I was first appointed as Bok coach, the captaincy was a big worry for me. But Jean has really pulled all the guys together.
De Villiers said he was honoured to be entrusted with the responsibility.
‘It’s nice to have some stability. Some people might say it’s only until the end of the year, but we have a very long year still to come,’ De Villiers said.
‘This will give us more time to prepare for the Rugby Championship. I will also admit that it’s a job I can’t do on my own, so the senior guys in the team will also have to help.’
While De Villiers has been backed as captain until the end of 2012, Meyer said he would look at the vice captaincy position at the end of the England series.
Bismarck du Plessis has served as De Villiers’ lieutenant in the forwards thus far, but it could be that Schalk Burger moves into that position when he returns from injury for the Rugby Championship.
By Jon Cardinelli, in Port Elizabeth