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Heyneke Meyer keeps faith with Jean De Villiers for Samoa clash

Published 23/09/2015

South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer is backing captain Jean De Villiers ahead of the match against Samoa
South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer is backing captain Jean De Villiers ahead of the match against Samoa

Heyneke Meyer will put his job on the line by keeping faith with "fighter" and captain Jean De Villiers for South Africa's crucial World Cup clash with Samoa.

South Africa face Samoa at Villa Park on Saturday, desperate to grind their World Cup campaign back into gear after last weekend's stunning 34-32 defeat to Japan.

Head coach Meyer admitted opting against dropping skipper De Villiers was among the toughest decisions of his career, accepting that should the call backfire his job will be under huge threat.

"It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life to make," said Meyer on retaining De Villiers in his starting line-up.

"You are almost in a lose-lose situation because if you don't pick your captain and you lose, they say you should have picked your captain, and if you do pick your captain and you lose, then you shouldn't have stuck with your captain.

"It's not an emotional decision."

Centre De Villiers dislocated his knee against Wales in November but has battled back admirably to take his place in South Africa's final World Cup squad.

The 34-year-old struggled along with the rest of the Springboks to impose themselves against Japan, Eddie Jones' men shocking the world with Saturday's triumph in Brighton.

Meyer refused to drop the former Munster centre despite making eight changes to South Africa's starting line-up however, instead banking on De Villiers' leadership to help dig the Springboks out of their early World Cup hole.

South Africa's sports minister warned the team to turn their poor World Cup start on its head, while Meyer greeted defeat to Japan by claiming the Springboks had let down their country.

The emotive and bullish language has hardly stopped there either, with Meyer suggesting South Africa as a nation could learn a thing or two from the faith he has exhibited in staying loyal to De Villiers.

"I thought about it long and hard and came to the conclusion that this is a must-win game and who are you going to back?" said Meyer.

"I had a long and hard chat with him and I just decided as a coach, and I will stand by my decision, that if you go into a fight that you have to win, that your whole career and whole country depends on, I really want to take a guy that has had six knee operations.

"I want to go with a guy like that into a fight that we have to win because I know he wants to play for South Africa, I know he is a fighter and I know it is the best for the team.

"It was a tough choice but I know it's the right choice and I'll back him and if we, as South Africans, maybe backed each other more, South Africa would be a better place with less hate and violence and more love.

"I spoke to the team as well. They back him, they want him.

"We deserve all the criticism. It is unacceptable for the Springboks. We are a proud nation and a proud team.

"We have had immense support from South Africa, even if we don't deserve it, and I just want to thank all the guys that supported us.

"I've probably had more emails and texts than ever in my life, even more than when we beat the All Blacks."

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