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De Villiers delighted with fitness

Peter de Villiers has expressed his satisfaction over the fitness of South Africa's contracted players following a month-long conditioning programme.

The likes of vice-captain Victor Matfield, Bryan Habana and Jaque Fourie all took part in the course, which ended in Cape Town on Tuesday. During that time, the national players were not allowed to turn out for their unions during the ongoing Currie Cup, but will be allowed to return for this weekend's final group games followed by the play-offs.

"This conditioning phase has worked as well as we could ever have hoped," De Villiers said. "The guys have come back refreshed and hungry for rugby and have given us food for thought for our selection process now."

Neels Liebel, conditioning coach, added: "The players are in great shape and a number of personal bests have been set by them.

"Considering the stage of the season it has been very pleasing and a lot of the credit must go to the players and particularly the conditioning coaches at the provincial unions who have really helped make this happen."

Skipper John Smit, Fourie du Preez, Andries Bekker, Heinrich Brussow, JP Pietersen and Pierre Spies did not play a full part due to their various injuries.

The world champions, who have had an ordinary year by their standards, losing five out of 10 Tests, face a gruelling end-of-year tour to Europe.

They play all four home nations - Ireland in Dublin on November 6, followed by Tests against Wales, Scotland and England on each of the remaining weekends of next month - before ending the tour with a clash against the Barbarians at Twickenham on December 4.


From Belfast Telegraph