Rugby: De Villiers back in charge for championship

Jean de Villiers of South Africa. Photo / Getty Images
Jean de Villiers of South Africa. Photo / Getty Images

Jean de Villiers will lead South Africa in the Rugby Championship after a knee injury sidelined the 33-year-old during mid-year test victories at home to Wales (twice) and Scotland.

South Africa begin the six-match Southern Hemisphere series against Argentina on August 16 in Pretoria.

"It is great to have Jean back to lead our side in the Rugby Championship and I am sure he will slot in without any difficulty," said coach Heyneke Meyer after naming a 30-man squad.

"We have been steadily improving over the past two years, but another step-up is needed this season.

"Winning matches and scoring tries remains foremost in our minds. During the four June matches, we scored 23 tries, which we were very happy with.

"I think we can be proud of the rugby we played against Wales and Scotland, but that is in the past now and we have a new competition to get ready for."

De Villiers (96 caps) and left-wing Bryan Habana (97) are poised to reach the 100-cap mark during the tournament.

Toulon-based Habana is among seven overseas stars selected by Meyer with four based in France, two in England and one in Ireland.

Legendary lock and most capped Springbok Victor Matfield, who stood in for De Villiers as skipper, is among the 17 forwards.

Eben Etzebeth, another lock, is included despite playing no top-level rugby this year because of injuries.

South Africa must tackle the Pumas, Wallabies and All Blacks without first-choice scrum-half Fourie du Preez. The veteran Japan-based star, who helped the Springboks win the 2007 Rugby World Cup, injured an ankle against Wales and will not play again this year.

His absence leaves Ireland-based Ruan Pienaar, Francois Hougaard and uncapped Cobus Reinach contesting the No 9 green and gold shirt.

There will also be plenty of competition for the No 10 playmaker role between incumbent Morne Steyn, rapidly improving Handre Pollard and Patrick Lambie.

Those not considered because of injuries include Du Preez, centre Jaque Fourie, locks Pieter-Steph du Toit and Flip van der Merwe and loose forwards Arno Botha and Pierre Spies. Right-wing JP Pietersen and flanker Schalk Burger were left out.

Springbok squad
Backs: Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana, Cornal Hendricks, Francois Hougaard, Patrick Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo, Ruan Pienaar, Handre Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Willie le Roux, Jan Serfontein, Morne Steyn, Jean de Villiers (c).
Forwards: Willem Alberts, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Brits, Marcell Coetzee, Eben Etzebeth, Lodewyk de Jager, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Victor Matfield, Teboho Mohoje, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp, Adriaan Strauss, Duane Vermeulen.

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