WATCH | Ex-Bok wins chase as would-be thief butchers it

Jean de Villiers helps apprehend a shoplifting suspect

09 February 2023 - 14:48
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In what he quipped was an event that potentially outstrips his decorated rugby career, former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers recounted his successful barefoot chase of an alleged shoplifter in his hometown.

De Villiers last month gave chase after a man who had removed items from the Boer and Butcher in Paarl.

He and his wife Marli were in the butchery, which is also a deli and grocery store, when the ex-Bok got involved in a chase that resulted in the suspect being apprehended.

“We go shop there often and on that day we were in there looking to buy meat, biltong and droewors,” recalled De Villiers.

“On our way to the till I noticed this guy who had a bag over his neck and shoulder. Something just didn't look lekker. I noticed he was stuffing things into his bag.

“As an ex-rugby player my peripheral vision is reasonably good and I continued watching him and he didn't notice.”

He explained the suspect continued stuffing his bag. “By then he was stuffing chocolates into the bag, about a dozen of them, and headed for the door. I walked out behind him and all I wanted to do was politely ask him to return the stuff to the store. However when I said 'hey' he bolted.”

The battle-scarred Bok who retired in 2015 after 109 Tests, was then faced with a snap decision.

“I then realised I had to chase after him with a dodgy knee and many old injuries. I had not sprinted for seven years. I was wearing sandals and that went flying as did my sunglasses.

“There is a Home Affairs office across the road from the shop and he headed that way snaking through the parked cars. It being a Home Affairs there was a long queue.”

Thankfully for De Villiers, the man he was chasing soon had his progress arrested.

“Someone then bumped him and I was able to grab him. Thankfully that happened because I'm much bigger than this bloke and I would probably have gone right over him. It would have been tantamount to a red card and a seven-week suspension,” he joked.

Meanwhile the human caterpillar outside Home Affairs gave their approval. “They said 'well done', and I had to pose for pictures. There was even a bloke who in a very distinct Cape Town accent said: 'Djy Jean, djy kan mos lekker uit retirement kom.'

De Villiers accompanied the suspect and his loot to the shop where he handed him over to the manager who then summoned security.

“I don't know what happened after that,” said De Villiers who explained he did not wish for the situation to unfold in the way it did.

“One of my best friends owns the shop but I would like to think I would have done the same in any store,” said De Villiers.

“I felt sorry for the guy [the suspect]. Due to our continued inequality the situation is desperate for a lot of people. But there has to be consequences for wrong actions.”

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