De Villiers cleared ... or is he?
Captain Jean de Villiers is confident he will lead SA against Samoa Saturday, but he remains in doubt.
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers is confident he will lead South Africa against Samoa on Saturday, but he remains in doubt for the final round of the four-nations tournament in Pretoria.
A statement dispatched from the Bok team said De Villiers and loose forward Willem Alberts have both been passed fit to face the Pacific Islanders at Loftus Versfeld.
However, De Villiers seemed to suggest his participation is not a certainty.
"I reckon you should see me on the field tomorrow [Saturday]," De Villiers told a media gathering in his traditional Friday briefing.
Then came the rider.
"If [I am] not [fit], I think the team prepared this week as if I won't be playing," he added.
De Villiers said while the Samoans were known for the physicality, they would be met with true South African grit.
"We as South Africans are proud of the way we play and we never take a step backwards when a game becomes hard and we look forward to the match," he told the media scrum.
The gritty centre said the Springboks had to show significant improvements to last weekend's stuttering display against Scotland in Nelspruit.
De Villiers said the team had to make a step-up, particularly in defence, where they would have to stop the big, strong and fast Samoans.
"Certainly we will have to be better, there is no doubt about that and the team has selected the best team possible," De Villiers said.
"All our defences will be tested. They are big guys running at you and you have to stop that momentum. We didn't do that last week so we need to up it in that regard.
"It will be physical and you have to get the basics right. You have to make your tackles and you need to get over the advantage line when you've got the ball."
The Bok skipper said while there was a lot of talk of the Samoans seeking revenge for their 5-13 loss to South Africa at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, circumstances were different this time.
He said Samoa was a vastly improved side to the one that ran out against the Springboks two years ago.
The point margins from the two teams' last three encounters also supported De Villiers' view that the Islanders made significant progress.
Before their match at the World Cup, the Samoans suffered two crushing defeats against the Boks, losing 59-7 at the 2007 World Cup in France and 35-8 in South Africa earlier that year.
"They are the seventh ranked team in the world and they don't get a lot of time together and they tend to get the results," De Villiers said.
"They are beating top-tier nations consistently these days and they are probably the most improved side in world rugby over the last couple of years and they are producing quality players."