Centre Jean de Villiers believes the first Test against the British and Irish Lions in Durban on June 20 is crucial for the Springboks and their chances in the series.
Although it is obvious that the first Test is critical, it’s more so for the Springboks, because they won’t have played together prior to that match. The Lions will be playing their seventh match when they meet the Boks for the first time.
“At this stage we’re viewing the series as a one-Test series, that’s how important the match in Durban is,” De Villiers said.
“It’s all or nothing on June 20 because it’s very difficult to come back if you’re 1-0 down. That will be a massive examination for us, and our focus is on that game at the moment. We’re not even thinking about Tests two and three.”
De Villiers is also viewing this series as a personal World Cup after missing the last two tournaments through injury. He made it to France in 2007 but was injured in the Boks’ opening match against Samoa and played no further part in the tournament.
But the injury bogey won’t leave him alone. Having recently recovered from a groin injury that kept him out of the last three weeks of the Super 14, De Villiers could hardly get out of bed on Tuesday morning.
“I came through 30 minutes against Namibia last week, but yesterday I woke up with a stiff and sore back. The same thing happened last year before the Wales Test and I found it difficult to walk.”
The source of the back problem remains a mystery, but De Villiers is confident that he and the medical staff will be able to manage it throughout the series and the international season.
Although De Villiers is the incumbent inside centre, having featured in each of the Boks’ 13 Tests in 2008, he is taking nothing for granted in terms of selection.
“I don’t feel like my place is guaranteed,” De Villiers said. “If you look throughout the squad there are few players who can take their Test places for granted.
“In my position Wynand Olivier has had a fantastic Super 14 and Frans Steyn has won a World Cup so there is tough competition.
“But I hope experience will count for a lot and it makes sense to go with the tried and tested players first up.”
Craig Ray reports for www.thetimes.co.zaTweet