Jean de Villiers has taken just a fortnight and two test matches to prove that he has the credentials that Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is looking for in a long-term captain.
Meyer announced at Wednesday’s team announcement press conference at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium that De Villiers, who was initially appointed just for the three-test series against England, will lead the team until the end of the year.
“I spent 10 years coaching against Jean so I didn’t really know his leadership capabilities before, but over the past few weeks he has proved himself an unbelievable captain and team leader,” said Meyer.
“The way he has brought the players together, the way he has made the new players feel welcome and brought the young players through, has been amazing, particularly as he has effectively had only six training sessions to do it. He has led the team with great dignity and humility on the field, and you can see the massive respect all the players have for him.
“From day one it was obvious to me that he had the respect of his fellow players. I had told him when I appointed him as captain that I also needed him to play his best rugby as well, and he has done that in these past two games. I have worked with some great leaders in my time as coach, and I would say that Jean is right up there among the best of them.”
Meyer said he wanted to make the announcement now rather than wait until the break between the end of this series and the start of The Rugby Championship as he wanted De Villiers to feel settled as the team starts to focus on the challenges that lie ahead.
“I felt I should give him the confidence to know he is the leader, I wanted Jean to know where he stands as we are starting the planning now for The Rugby Championship and he obviously needs to play a big part in that.”
De Villiers said it was a great honour to be confirmed as the captain for the season, but he did not allude to the excitement at this press conference that he did when a similar announcement was made ahead of the series in Durban two and a bit weeks ago.
“I really haven’t been thinking about the captaincy issue, all I am concerned about is that we have two wins and we need to make it three against England on Saturday,” said De Villiers.
“It’s nice to know that I have the coach’s backing as captain and it has been great working in what has been a really positive Springbok environment over the past few weeks, but I am just focused on winning this week.”
He added later in a press release that he had enjoyed working in the environment created by Meyer.
“It’s easy working with this team and the help that I’ve received from the other senior players has made my job so much easier. I’m looking forward to working with them for the rest of the year and hopefully we can grow as a team and reach our goal of becoming No 1 in the world.”