De Villiers bows out with wine, special friends

28 September 2015 - 17:00 By David LEGGE
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Jean de Villiers ended 13 years as a Springbok by sipping wine in the middle of the night with team-mate and former schoolmate Schalk Burger, childhood idol Danie Gerber and golfer Ernie Els.

The South Africa skipper and centre fractured a jaw on Saturday in a 46-6 Rugby World Cup mauling of Samoa in Birmingham that got the twice champions' campaign back on track after a stunning loss to Japan.

Ruled out of the tournament by the injury, 34-year-old De Villiers later announced his retirement, drawing the curtains on a 109-Test career.

It was a heartbreaking ending for the Cape Town-based star who had overcome a serious knee ligament injury and the fracture of the other side of his jaw to make the World Cup squad.

De Villiers has had rotten World Cup luck -- missing the 2003 tournament because of a shoulder injury and being ruled out of the Springboks 2007 campaign after one match with a biceps injury.

But as his Springbok team-mates slept in north-east England city Newcastle, where they face Scotland Saturday in a top-of-the-table Pool B clash, De Villiers gathered special friends in his hotel room.


"Danie and Ernie have become great friends of mine." De Villiers told the South African media.

"Gerber is the best centre South Africa ever produced and I am honoured to have played in the same position he once did.

"It is funny how things worked out with two legends commiserating with me, and Schalk being at his philosophical best for that time of the night."

Gerber was capped 24 times between 1980 and 1992 and Johannesburg-born former world No.1 Els has won four Major championships.

De Villiers said the middle-of-the-night talk centred on what would be the perfect ending to a Springbok career

"After such a tough week following the defeat to Japan, being part of the team that got back on track and played with such pride and determination to win well is good enough for me.

"As a former Springbok now, I am supporter No.1 and I do not want the guys to feel sorry for me.

"This week is about the team replicating the urgency shown against Samoa, and beating Scotland."


De Villiers said he hoped to have surgery in South Africa and then return to England for the closing stages of the World Cup to provide moral support and advice.

South Africa sports minister Fikile Mbalula said the Springboks will miss their inspirational leader.

"Jean is a great leader and a patriot to be celebrated all the time. He put his body on the line despite criticism and has shown great leadership qualities.

"It is a setback for South Africa and for him. I wish him a speedy recovery. He was a soldier who was injured on duty trying to do better for his country, his family and everybody."

Former Springbok skipper and loose forward Corne Krige described the loss of De Villiers as a huge blow.

"That is a massive setback for Jean after coming back from a horrific knee injury and a cracked jaw.

"To be injured again is actually beyond belief -- he must be devastated.

"I think the team relies on him in a big way. But I also think that after their win against Samoa, spirits will be a lot higher."





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