Jean's the right man now - Times LIVE
Mon Apr 24 01:34:03 SAST 2017

Jean's the right man now

Simnikiwe Xabanisa | 2012-11-29 00:34:45.0

There's something about a win against England at Twickenham that is guaranteed to get a Springbok coach off the hook.

Jake White still has his 2006 victory to thank for his status as a World Cup-winning coach, while Peter de Villiers hung on to his job thanks to a similar effort in 2010.

Heyneke Meyer's fortunate 16-15 win - the cheque's in the mail, Chris Robshaw - was no different last weekend.

Suddenly, one of the ugliest Bok tours of the United Kingdom in memory washed up as an unqualified success mostly because they overcame the old enemy at Twickers - regardless of England captain Robshaw's brain-dead decision-making.

With Meyer free to enjoy his festive season in peace, South Africa's rugby public have turned their carping to his choice of captain to lead the Boks going forward, Jean de Villiers.

He's not worth his place in the starting line-up, some have cried. But who is the better option, Frans Steyn?

Besides almost always starting the international season overweight, Steyn's scant regard for passing and creating space for those outside of him have made him look like a retreaded flanker playing at inside centre.

De Villiers is not central enough to the action, those used to their captains leading from the forwards said.

But of the current crop of Bok forwards, who would do a better job of leading the team?

Adriaan Strauss' stocks have risen this year, but he isn't exactly guaranteed to be ahead of Bismarck du Plessis next year. Du Plessis himself has been mentioned as a candidate in some quarters, but anyone who sees a captain in Bissy needs to have their head read.

Bath captain Francois Louw is probably the closest thing to real opposition for De Villiers, but your captain can't be based overseas.

We forget the circumstances under which De Villiers took over the captaincy.

It may not have been Kamp Staaldraad proportions, but Bok rugby appeared to be in chaos this year and needed a steady hand on the tiller.

And through a combination of humility, honesty and humour, De Villiers has presided over the most complex team in world rugby.

Meyer's gameplan and being played at outside centre can't have been a natural fit for De Villiers. But he bit his tongue and got stuck in loyally and manfully.

All of that has happened in the backdrop of what must be ongoing private heartbreak when it comes to his career.

Despite arriving in a Johan Goosen-esque blizzard in 2001, De Villiers has, through a combination of injury and rotten luck, not won enough titles to go with his prodigious ability.

Sportsmen notoriously measure their careers in trophies, and De Villiers has had to add things like durability - in the face of a cruel run of injuries - to his criteria.

His contemporaries, John Smit, Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez, Schalk Burger and Bryan Habana, have won pretty much everything going, while he has had to content himself with a couple of Tri-Nations titles and a series win against the British and Irish Lions.

But, 84 Tests into his career, he still gives the impression that playing for his country means as much to him as it did that fateful day in Marseille in 2002 - he broke down seven minutes into the game.

While not a serial winner, De Villiers is not exactly a loser either, which is not necessarily a bad thing for a Bok captain to be.

Leading the Boks successfully is sometimes less about rugby excellence than it is about being well-versed in the grey areas of South African life.

Meyer is right - De Villiers is the right captain at the right time for the Boks.


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