A special day for skipper Jean
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers reckons the honour of leading his team against Argentina at his home ground of Newlands will provide a special day that will erase the disappointment of his Stormers team’s exit from Super Rugby.
De Villiers was quite inconsolable after his team lost the semifinal to the Sharks, and even went as far as to question his own captaincy. But now it’s three weeks later, and just as the rivers are all running with new vigour in the fairest Cape with the sun coming out after a few days of rain, De Villiers is also feeling refreshed and ready for a new challenge.
“It is good that we are starting the Championship at Newlands as it is always a special place for me. I grew up watching rugby at Newlands,” said De Villiers.
“There are also other reasons though that combine to make this game even more special. It’s the first time the Argentinians will be playing it The Rugby Championship, it’s Frans Steyn’s 50th game, so you could say it’s special for the whole team.”
And the most important thing is that De Villiers will go into the game feeling that his whole team is refreshed after a short break in recent weeks from the non-stop grind of playing Super Rugby week in and week out.
“We have had two tough weeks in training since we gathered as a team, but it does make a big difference to how you feel when you’re not playing on a Saturday,” said the captain.
“The time away from playing matches does have the effect of refreshing you. It has been good to get in a bit of rest from playing, and I think the whole team feels the same way about it. Even the Sharks, who played in the Super Rugby final, are feeling it as they have been managed since joining us.”
De Villiers said that his team is in a better space now than before the England series, when his men went in with the excuse of being a new team and also only having a few days to prepare after a tough round of Super Rugby derbies.
“There should be a lot more cohesion now than there was against England,”
“I was only told on the Sunday night before the first test that I was captain. It meant I only effectively had two days to get the team together and get them used to my leadership. Everyone now knows what they need to do, and we’re all on the same page. We know what we are striving towards and what kind of rugby we want to play.
“But while that is undoubtedly a positive for us, we also know that there is now no room for excuses. We need to produce on the field, and that means we need to try and get to the sort of performance we produced in the first half against England in the Johannesburg test. That was pretty close to perfect, we gave them no ball to play with.”
At the same time though De Villiers believes his team needs to learn to become more ruthless, which means they must press home the advantage when they have a team on the ropes like they did at Coca Cola Park.
“That is one aspect we will be working on and looking to improve, but there are several others that also require attention,” he said.