Jean adapting quickly to captaincy
From the back row to the front row within a year is the road that Springbok Jean de Villiers has taken, as he is already adapted to captaining the team.
“It is funny how things change; last year I didn’t even sit in the front row of the team photo. Now the usual faces are no longer there,” he said 24 hours before the Springboks take on Argentina in the second round of the Castle Rugby Championship.
He will be playing his 77th test, two less than Bryan Habana, who is the most experienced player in the squad.
“You have to adapt to the circumstances, but it is also an opportunity for guys to start leading.”
With regards to his own leadership, De Villiers said that he's settled in nicely as captain.
"I've had more time to prepare and settle than against England. I captained the Stormers this year and it is the same job but a different jersey.”
“Much more responsibility, though,” he says with a smile. In talking about leadership, he mentioned his vice captain. “Adriaan (Strauss) has done a fantastic job with the Cheetahs and now with the Boks.”
Former Springbok captain Joost van der Westhuizen will present the team jerseys before Saturday's match Mendoza.
“Having Joost will be quite special. We saw him yesterday and he is fighting a massive battle (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) which puts into perspective what we as professional sportsmen do every Saturday. His battle is every second of his life.”
With regards to the match to be played at the Malvinas Argentinas Stadium, in front of what is expected to be a capacity crowd of 42 000, De Villiers expects a huge challenge from Argentina.
“Los Pumas are at least ten points better at home. They are a passionate nation, this will be their first home game of the Rugby Championship and they will come out firing. They have a lot to play for.”
Bryan Habana and himself are the only survivors of the last test the Springboks played in Argentina. They still haven’t told the team what they could be in for.
“On the Friday, with the captain’s run, we’ll talk about what we need to do and that will definitely come through. Now it is more about the mental aspects.
“We need to take the good out of the last game and focus on our game plan. Hernandez is a big loss but they have an adequate replacement. Our game plan doesn’t change at all because of their personnel change.”
Asked about Argentina’s one-dimensional approach, De Villiers said: “They sometimes say the same about us. As a team you need to play to your strengths.
“Last week, we didn’t finish off our opportunities; executing and finishing off our opportunities needs to be improved.
“We are a team that must improve every week,” he concluded.