Jean de Villiers admits that the hamstring injury that precluded him from the Currie Cup play-offs was a blessing in disguise.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has repeatedly criticised the manner in which South African rugby is run with regards to player management. Meyer believes that South Africa should following the example set by New Zealand, who centrally contract their top players and thus ensure that they are not overplayed in matches that essentially don’t matter.
The Boks returned to their provinces after the Rugby Championship, and were immediately rushed back into Currie Cup action. De Villiers expressed his disappointment when he was asked to start in Western Province’s final league match against the Cheetahs, and as if to prove his point, succumbed to injury in that match.
This injury would see De Villiers missing WP’s semi-final and final appearances. The Bok captain, however, believes that the two-week break from rugby has done him a world of good.
The Boks will depart for their three-Test tour of Europe on Saturday, and while De Villiers has been unable to train with the team, he is adamant that he will be fit for that first game against Ireland.
‘It’s getting better every day,’ he said. ‘I’m not 100% yet, but hopefully by the time I arrive in Ireland I will be ready to start training.
‘Aside from the injury, I’m as fresh as a daisy. My rehab has gone to plan, and it’s amazing what a break like this can do for you mentally as well as physically.
‘I have spent a lot of that break with the WP side, but it does make a big difference when you aren’t actually playing. It’s been great and now I’m looking forward to getting back on the field.’
De Villiers reiterated what was said by Meyer on Wednesday, that Saru should reconsider the way players are managed if they hope for the Boks to enjoy sustained success at Test level.
De Villiers believes that international players should be playing fewer Super Rugby and Currie Cup games in a calendar year, and that Tests should be viewed as the priority.
‘The reality of the matter is that there are 12 Tests a year, and as a pro you want to play as many of those as possible. You don’t want to be resting for Tests.’
The Bok captain added that the squad will be mentally and physically prepared for the challenge that a tour to Ireland, Scotland and England will present.
‘It is a shortish tour, and after the last game it’s the holidays,’ he said. ‘There’s lots to play for and personally my attitude is a lot better than it has been on previous [northern] tours.
‘I’m really excited and feeling fresh, and I can see by the way the guys have been training this week that they share the same positive attitude.’
By Jon Cardinelli, in Cape Town