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'Jean de Villiers will go down as a sporting great'

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has praised Jean de Villiers and called him an inspirational leader.

Former Springbok centre and captain Jean de Villiers. Picture: Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG - Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula says despite Jean de Villiers's bad luck, he will go down as a South African sporting great.

He had always planned to hang up his boots after this year's Rugby World Cup but was forced to call it quits sooner after fracturing his jaw against Samoa on Saturday.

Mbalula says de Villiers is an inspirational leader.

"Against adversity he's one who actually at all times seeks to triumph and raise the flag for South Africa. Well done Jean, from Fikile Mbalula, number one supporter of the Springboks. Captain my captain."

Former world cup winning Springbok flyhalf Joel Stransky says de Villiers showed tremendous courage by coming back from injury and will most likely be replaced by Victor Matfield now that he's been ruled out of the tournament.

The 34-year-old made his test debut for the Springboks in 2002 against France and gained 106 caps.

Stransky says Matfield and Duane Vermeulen may be chosen by coach Heyneke Meyer to take the reigns.

"I think Meyer has a huge amount of respect for tradition and history and I don't think he wants to willy-nilly make someone captain on a short-term basis. I wouldn't be surprised if it's Victor. I know there's a call that Duane Vermeulen should be the captain, to put that honour on someone with a longer future."

Listen to Joel Stransky on Jean de Villiers' retirement:

JDV RECALLS MOMENTS

De Villiers recalled an emotional moment immediately after he got injured on Saturday and reckoned his Springboks time was over.

"When I got injured and I left the field, I knew that I had played my last Test for South Africa."

He became the 54th Springbok captain when he was appointed by coach Meyer in June 2012.

"Injuries are part of rugby and I've had my fair share, so by now I know how to cope with them. It's very sad, but life goes on. I need to take it all in and move forward. I was quite sad on the one hand when I came off the field, as I knew I won't get the opportunity to play for my country again.

"Having played for South Africa for 13 years, I've been fortunate to experience so many great things and I got to know so many good friends, but you never think it would end like this."

De Villiers also reflected the one moment that stood out for him in his career.

"Probably my favourite moment as a Springbok was my 101 Test at Newlands with my two daughters in my arms as we took to the field. We recorded a brilliant victory against Australia and I was fortunate enough to have scored two tries. After the match, I played with my children on the pitch. I've had a blessed career and I will be forever grateful for that."

He made his debut in 2002 but went on to miss three following World Cups through injury.

"I suppose the last time I got injured at the World Cup against Samoa and went home, things didn't turn out that badly. So hopefully we can get the same this time around."

De Villiers, who captained the Boks 37 times, retired as the second most capped Springbok captain of all time.

He ended his career as the fourth most capped player in the history of South African Test Rugby with 109 matches behind his name.

JDV NO STRANGER TO WORLD CUP INJURIES

His career has been riddled with injury, but it's been the quadrennial Rugby World Cup that has been most unkind.

De Villiers had been selected for four World Cups and at each one he suffered an injury.

He made his first senior-level appearance for South Africa in November 2002 against France, but suffered a major knee injury five minutes into the game.

The veteran centre would go on to miss the 2003 World Cup in Australia as a result.

The 2007 tournament, which the Springboks won in France was no different for him.

He won the World Cup with South Africa, although he tore a bicep during the opening game of the tournament and took no further part.

Four years later at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, injury was once again waiting for him.

In New Zealand he played just 25 minutes in the first game against Wales before he popped a rib.

He recovered and played the last Pool B game from the bench against Samoa.

It was still to be a bad ending for him as the Boks crashed to defeat against Australia in the quarterfinal.

His provincial and Super Rugby career at Western Province and the Stormers wasn't sparred either, missing large chunks of the 2015 season and previous years with various injuries, including a troublesome wrist niggle.

An announcement on the Springboks captaincy for the match against Scotland on 3 October will be made on Wednesday.

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