There are plenty of talking points from South Africa this month from the return of Jean de Villiers to concerns in the backrow and the Springbok exodus
DE VILLIERS MAKES CAUTIOUS BUT SUCCESSFUL COMEBACK
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers returned to action for the first time in nine months when he came off the bench against a World XV at Newlands earlier this month. De Villiers sustained what many – including Bok coach Heyneke Meyer – thought as a career-ending injury against Wales last November. But an intensive training regime following successful surgery put his recovery about a month ahead of schedule. De Villiers did not tour Australia with the Boks and will play a few Currie Cup warm-up games for Western Province as part of his final rehabilitation. Despite his successful cameo off the bench at Newlands, De Villiers said he didn’t expect to simply walk back into the Springbok team. “For me to get to the World Cup is still a very long way,” De Villiers said. “I’ve still got a lot of boxes to tick. From a performance point of view I’ve still got to improve a hell of a lot. If you look at the performances that Damian (De Allende) and Jesse (Kriel) gave [against the World XV] it is not just a walk in. I need to deserve my place and I’ve still got a long way to go to be at an elite level and to form part of that squad.”
DUANE IN PAIN
Springbok hard man Duane Vermeulen is in a race against time to be fit for the 2015 Rugby World Cup after undergoing neck surgery in early July. Vermeulen played the final weeks of the Super Rugby competition in discomfort after suffering a neck injury against the Bulls. The tough man kept shrugging off the severity of the problem but he was eventually forced to miss the Stormers’ wild card Super Rugby play-off against the Brumbies, which the Cape Town side lost. Vermeulen’s absence in the battle for the ball on the ground was a telling factor as Wallaby poacher David Pocock made hay. After Vermeulen joined the Springboks squad, the national medical staff decided that surgery was necessary and put a six-week time frame on his return.
SARU CEO FACES LAWSUIT
Jurie Roux, chief executive of the SA Rugby Union (SARU), faces a R32m (about £1.7m) lawsuit by the University of Stellenbosch (Maties). In papers lodged in the Western Cape High Court in July, the university claims that Roux, along with colleague Chris de Beer, misappropriated university funds between 2002-2010. The university employed both at the time. According to the court papers the pair made “unauthorised” financial transfers of university reserve funds for Maties Rugby Club business over that period. Roux denies the charges and has the full backing of SARU. He recently signed a contract extension to stay on as CEO until 2021.
SA PLAYERS LEAVING, BUT SARU SOON TO UNVEIL NEW CONTRACTING MODEL
Several leading South African players will continue their careers on foreign soil in 2016 and beyond. As previously reported the likes of Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, Pierre Spies, Francois Hougaard and Duane Vermeulen will play for leading Japanese and French clubs in 2016. In an effort to stem the flow of top players SARU has spent months fine-tuning a new contractual model to keep up to 30 leading Springboks in the country. With an exchange rate that makes competing with the pound and euro difficult, SARU’s new ‘dual’ contract should ease the strain on provinces. Ten national junior contracts and 22 senior contracts will be awarded whereby SARU pays a massive portion of their salaries as a ‘top up’ to provincial contracts. According to a source leading players would now earn more than they could in France and England.
CRAVEN WEEK FOUNDER DIES
Former Springbok Piet Malan, who played one Test against the touring 1949 All Blacks, died after a battle against cancer at the age of 96. Prior to his death Malan was the oldest living Springbok. His greatest claim to fame was conceptualising Craven Week, the highly successful schoolboy rugby tournament held in the July winter holidays. The tournament pits the cream of South African schoolboys together in an under-18 provincial competition. The first tournament was held in East London in 1964 and since 1974 an SA Schools team has been selected at the end of the week. At the time of writing the 52nd edition of tournament was on going in Stellenbosch. The festival coincided with the 150th anniversary celebrations of SA’s greatest rugby nursery, Paul Roos Gymnasium. The school has produced 48 Springboks while over 270 Springboks have participated at Craven Week.