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De Villiers to lead SA rugby

Monday, August 04, 2014

JOHANNESBURG - Jean de Villiers will lead South Africa in the Rugby Championship against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand after a knee injury sidelined the 33-year-old inside centre during mid-year Test victories at home to Wales (twice) and Scotland.

South Africa begin the six-match southern hemisphere series against Argentina on August 16 in Pretoria.

"It is great to have Jean back to lead our side in the Rugby Championship and I am sure he will slot in without any difficulty," said coach Heyneke Meyer after naming a 30-man squad on Saturday.

"We have been steadily improving over the past two years, but another step-up is needed this season.

"Winning matches and scoring tries remains foremost in our minds. During the four June matches, we scored 23 tries, which we were very happy with.

"I think we can be proud of the rugby we played against Wales and Scotland, but that is in the past now and we have a new competition to get ready for."

De Villiers (96 caps) and left-wing Bryan Habana (97) are poised to reach the 100-cap mark during the tournament.

Toulon-based Habana is among seven overseas stars selected by Meyer with four based in France, two in England and one in Ireland.

Legendary lock and most capped Springbok Victor Matfield, who stood in for De Villiers as skipper, is among the 17 forwards.

Eben Etzebeth, another lock, is included despite playing no top-level rugby this year due to injuries.

South Africa must tackle the Pumas, Wallabies and All Blacks without first-choice scrum-half Fourie du Preez.

The veteran Japan-based star, who helped the Springboks win the 2007 Rugby World Cup, injured an ankle against Wales and will not play again this year.

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