Mourinho waits for apology
Boks are fired-up to take on France and grab a victory
THERE was a steely determination about Springbok captain Jean de Villiers yesterday when he delivered his prematch thoughts to the media ahead of today’s season curtain call in a country where De Villiers has never won and has suffered calamitous injuries.
Not far from the Springboks’ hotel in the fashionable district of Montparnasse is the Rue De Villiers, a confirmation of the captain’s French ancestry, as is his first name, Jean, and there are hints all through the Springbok squad of the contribution the French Huguenots made to Afrikaner culture when they escaped religious persecution by fleeing to the Cape Colony 300 years ago.
Current Bok names in Du Preez (as in Fourie), Le Roux (Willie), Fourie (Jaque), Du Plessis (Bismarck), Du Toit (Pieter-Steph), Pienaar (Ruan) and Malherbe (Frans) are all of French origin but captain De Villiers has never had a good experience in the land of his roots.
His Springbok debut was against France, in Marseilles in 2002, and seven minutes into the match (lost 30-10), he tore knee ligaments and it would be two years before he again played for the Boks.
In 2005, De Villiers was in a Bok team that had beaten the All Blacks at Newlands and was expected to win in Paris only to go down 26-20, and when he was next in Paris, for the 2007 Rugby World Cup opener against Samoa, he tore a bicep muscle early in the game and that was the end of his World Cup campaign.
“Not one of us knows what it is like to beat France at home although a lot of the guys have great memories of the 2007 World Cup here,” De Villiers said. “The last time a Bok team won here was in 1997, a game I recall watching on TV as a youngster and marvelling at the tries scored in that 52-10 victory.
“Now we have chance of both ending a drought and of signing off a season that has been successful for us,” the captain said. “Being the last game, it gives us the chance to empty everything we have out there on the field in making sure we put up a performance that will give us a good holiday. The last thing you want is to play a bad game and then dwell on it for the six months you have until the next Test (June 2014). So we obviously want to finish well.”
De Villiers pointed out that the All Blacks lost their last game of 2012, to England at Twickenham, and then had to chew on that defeat until they played France in New Zealand in June this year.
“We don’t want a similar situation, of course, but we are not approaching this game with the mindset of avoiding defeat,” he said. “Nor are we focusing on it as the last game of the year. It is not the end for us. Rather it is the beginning of the 2014 journey. It starts now, and we view this game as a chance to progress and improve as a team.”
De Villiers said the Boks seldom play France – in fact they have only played them four times in France since the 1997 win – and rarity has motivated the team to test themselves in an encounter significantly out of their comfort zone.
“The reality is most of our team have not played a Test in France, it is different conditions under foot, it will be freezing cold and none of us are used to kicking off at 9pm,” De Villiers said. “So it is a nice test for the boys and we are not talking about avoiding defeat, we are talking about chucking another monkey off our back, like we did earlier this year when we won in Brisbane for the first time since the ‘70s.
“It excites us that we have not won here for 16 games,” De Villiers concluded. “We want to rectify this. We want to win here in conditions that suit France, we want to be shivering at the national anthems and then go on and show we are a better team than France. There is a lot for us to play for.”
READY TO ROCK: Springbok captain Jean de Villiers prepares for tonight’s Test against France.