De Villiers returns to captain Springboks

Jean de Villiers will return from a career-threatening knee injury to captain South Africa against Argentina this weekend, his first Test in eight months.

The veteran centre was recalled by coach Heyneke Meyer on Wednesday after coming through surgery and a long rehabilitation on the left knee injury he suffered last November.

The 34-year-old De Villiers played off the bench against a World XV at the beginning of last month, a game that didn’t have Test status. He has since played two games in domestic rugby to prove his fitness, with just six weeks to go until the Rugby World Cup.

“I’m very satisfied that he will be able to make his mark as player and captain,” Meyer said in a statement announcing the team for Saturday’s game against Argentina in Durban.

The Springboks shifted utility back Jesse Kriel from outside centre to wing to make way for De Villiers.

Prop Vincent Koch will make his first Test start, and flanker Marcell Coetzee has returned from injury for the last round of the Rugby Championship.

Heinrich Brussow was retained at openside flanker after playing his first Test in four years in South Africa’s last outing, a loss two weeks ago to world champions New Zealand.

The Springboks have lost to Australia and New Zealand in the championship, both after leading into the final stages of the game, undermining their build-up to the World Cup.

“We will never accept that we lost our last two Tests,” Meyer said. “On both occasions, we were in positions to win and we let it slip, which is simply not good enough. It will be tough as the Argentineans will be coming for us.”

Argentina have also lost two from two this season, and have won just once in the Rugby Championship since joining in 2012. However, the Pumas have a habit of pushing South Africa close, including a 16-16 draw three years ago in Mendoza.

South Africa: Willie le Roux, Jesse Kriel, Jean de Villiers (capt), Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana, Handre Pollard, Ruan Pienaar; Schalk Burger, Marcell Coetzee, Heinrich Brussow, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Res: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Marcel van der Merwe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Cobus Reinach, Pat Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo.

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