South Africa captain Jean de Villiers on Sunday ended his international career after a fractured jaw ruled him out of the rest of the World Cup.
The 34-year-old centre has 109 caps, the fourth highest in South African rugby, and has captained them 37 times. “It’s never nice getting injured and knowing that I’ve played my last game for South Africa. It’s quite sad,” de Villiers told a press conference.
De Villiers suffered the latest of a series of injury blows that have blighted his international career in South Africa’s 46-6 win over Samoa on Saturday.
“As I got replaced and I was running off, I knew it was my last,” he added. “I won’t get this opportunity again. Having played for the Springboks for 13 years now, you’ve been through so much, you’ve made so many good friends, you’ve seen so many good things, you never think that it would end like this.”
De Villiers said he broke the news to teammates on Saturday night and will return to South Africa on Monday for probable surgery on his jaw.
“It’s happened now and I’m very grateful for the time that I’ve had in the Springbok jersey and I wish the team the very best.
“I told them last night, as a former Springbok now, I wish them the very best and I’m supporter number one now.”
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer hailed de Villiers as “a warrior” and one of the country’s greatest players.
“The way in which he never gave up fighting to overcome his last serious knee injury reminded me again how much of a warrior he is and how highly he regarded the Springbok jersey,” said Meyer, whose own position remains under threat after South Africa’s defeat by unheralded Japan at this World Cup.
“He will go down as one of the greatest Springboks ever and in my eyes he is probably one of the best captains in the history of world rugby, who always put the team first and gave his time for any player, young or old without ever changing who he is.
“To see the emotions in the team room when he said his good byes to his team-mates made me realise how well-liked he is, by every person in this squad, but also most other people in the world-wide rugby fraternity.”
Despite being considered one of the world’s best centres, injuries have repeatedly stopped de Villiers tasting success on the World Cup stage. He barely made this World Cup after returning from a long lay-off from a serious knee injury suffered against Wales in November.
— Butch James (@butch_james) September 27, 2015
Saturday was the second time in two months that de Villiers has broken his jaw. He snapped the other side of his jaw in South Africa’s historic home defeat by Argentina in August.
De Villiers missed the 2003 World Cup because of a shoulder injury which he sustained on his return from a serious knee injury he suffered just seven minutes into his Test debut in 2002.
In 2007 he injured his biceps in the first game and missed the rest of the tournament which South Africa won.
Despite a shock loss to Japan in their opening match de Villiers still believed South Africa could win the World Cup for the third time.
“We’ve still got a massive game this weekend (against Scotland) and certainly I don’t want the guys to feel sorry for me. “It’s about getting the team right and getting the same attitude that we had yesterday and getting a good win against Scotland.”
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Michael Cheika and Pablo Lemoine reflect on Australia's 65-3 win over Uruguay in Rugby World Cup Pool A.
Keith Earls scored two tries to equal Brian O’Driscoll as Ireland’s leading World Cup try scorer as they eased to a 44-10 victory over Romania on Sunday.
The 27-year-old, who took his tournament total to seven tries, saw fellow wing Tommy Bowe also score two tries with Rob Kearney and Chris Henry getting the others.
Ireland’s second successive easy victory sets them up nicely for more challenging Pool D matches against Italy and then France.
Romania had already put in over 40 tackles by the time the game reached the five minute mark, indicating the tough match ahead.
Ian Madigan put the Irish 3-0 up in the eighth minute to reward their early pressure. But Darren Cave was penalised for not rolling away and Valentin Calafeteanu kicked the penalty to level affairs.
The Irish looked to have scored one of the tries of the tournament so far when Simon Zebo rushed down the left wing.
But his celebrations, including sticking his tongue out at his fan club, proved to be premature as the television official ruled it out for a foot still in touch when he collected his kick ahead.
Madigan added a penalty for 6-3 and Ireland turned on the style again with Earls prominent in creating the move that swept from the left hand side to the right and Bowe managed to touch the ball down before he was bundled into touch.
The Ulsterman’s 29th test try was welcome as he had been pilloried for his performance in the warm-up Test defeat by England — Madigan landed a fantastic conversion from the touchline for 13-3.
Zebo turned creator in the 27th minute. Seeing Earls free wide out on the left wing he floated a long pass out to his Munster team-mate and Earls had no problem in running the ball in to make it 18-3.
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) September 27, 2015
Earls drew level with iconic centre O’Driscoll four minutes into the second-half, running onto Eoin Reddan’s kick through and touching it down.
Madigan converted for 25-3. Romania held the Irish at bay for the next 15 minutes but referee Craig Joubert eventually lost patience with some gamesmanship by the Romanians and sin-binned Csaba Gal on the hour mark.
Within seconds the ball had been whipped out of the scrum and along the line for Bowe to go in for his second of the game. Madigan landed another stunning conversion from wide out on the right for 32-3.
The Irish ran in another superb try minutes later, Zebo the spark again unselfishly offloading to Kearney to score — though more worryingly the fullback, who was struggling for fitness prior to the tournament, limped back to the halfway line. Madigan failed for once to land the extras to leave the Irish leading 37-3.
Henry added another try as the Romanians wilted and Madigan added the conversion for 44-3. But there was a great cheer when veteran Romanian lock Ovidiu Ionita scored a try right at the death in what is his fifth World Cup.