GETTING THE SPRINGBOK captain on the phone to chat about the Heineken Cup turned out to be a simple enough task once the magic word ‘Munster’ was mentioned.
Jean de Villiers chats to TheScore.ie from his home in the Western Cape, where he is enjoying the off-season after a gruelling year with the Stormers and South Africa. De Villiers played the 2009/10 season with Munster and enjoyed his time in Limerick so much that he keeps in regular contact with Paul O’Connell, Ronan O’Gara and others.
The inside centre endured a testing start to his year with Munster but his try-scoring cameo off the bench, against Perpignan, saw him regain a starting spot in Tony McGahan’s side. The previous weekend had seen de Villiers benched in a white-knuckle 24-23 home winner over the French side.
He recalled, “I was dropped for that game at Thomond and my main memory of the game is that Ronan O’Gara saved us. He kicked or of our points, including a late penalty. People were writing us off ahead of the return match. The same people must have learned that you don’t do that to Munster before any Heineken Cup game.”
De Villiers’ Munster teammate David Wallace recalled, “Dougie [Howlett] and Jean scored really good tries that day. We really took it to them that day as we knew how close we had been to losing the week before. The crowd at the Stade Aimé Giral are quite vocal so it was crucial we started well and never let up.”
“It was quite a special performance,” de Villiers commented. “I came off the bench [on 62 minutes] and was determined to have a good game. The support I’d had before the game was fantastic so I wanted to make an impact.”
De Villiers scores despite the efforts of Perpignan’s Maxime Mermoz. INPHO/Billy Stickland
The South African bust the Perpignan defensive line within five minutes of his introduction after receiving a flat pass from O’Gara. The out-half’s grubber set Howlett up for a last-minute bonus point in a remarkable 37-14 win.
De Villiers said, “When everyone is pulling together in the same direction, Munster are capable of some truly special performances. They will need such a collective effort this weekend as it is such a vital game.”
Lifemi Mafi, who started in the Munster 12 jersey that day, is now on the other side of the field with Perpignan. “I was surprised to see that he left,” admitted the Springbok captain. “He’ll have a point to prove and he’ll want to put in a big performance.”
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