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Jean de Villiers demands South Africa hit back after nightmare Japan defeat

Springboks skipper Jean de Villiers has told his South Africa troops they have a duty to their countrymen to rectify the nightmare World Cup loss to Japan.

The two-time former world champions have been left reeling by their disastrous tournament opener in Brighton.

Fans the world over where left open-mouthed as the Brave Blossoms threw caution to the wind at the end of a thrilling contest, getting their reward with Karne Hesketh's incredible stoppage-time touchdown.

But while Eddie Jones' side rightly lapped up the adulation which flooded down on top of them, the South Africans have spent the past week undergoing a national soul-searching exercise.

Now de Villiers has ordered his team to make amends for the defeat by beating their next Pool B opponents Samoa at Villa Park on Saturday.

The former Munster centre said: "We all know how important this game is for our country, the game of rugby. We are a very proud nation. What saddens me is to see how a loss like this can break the country apart. We have a responsibility to rectify that.

"Rugby is a game but in South Africa it has become so much more than just a game and we carry that responsibility with us every single time we enter the field. We disappointed a lot of people last week.

"We need to stand up. We put ourselves in this position and we need to get ourselves out of this position."

No-one in green and gold escaped criticism following that barely-believable Japan loss - not even de Villiers himself.

The 109-cap captain, though, has the full-backing of Boks coach Heyneke Meyer and is one of just seven players to keep their places for the Samoa clash.

"Yes I did (expect to be dropped)," admitted the skipper. "After the backing that the coach has given me, I have to perform and show that I deserve that opportunity.

"I'm very aware of the criticism he has undergone for selecting me.

"It's not been an easy week. No one died but from a rugby point of view it has been tough. It took some time to really take in what happened at the weekend, it was a big shock. We all want it to be a global game, we all want the teams to get better, you just don't want it to be you that gets beaten."

Of those coming into the Meyer's line-up, perhaps the biggest burden lies on the shoulders of 21-year-old fly-half Handre Pollard.

But de Villiers backed the youngster to cope, saying: "I think England had a fly-half (Jonny Wilkinson) who was pretty young when you won a World Cup. I can't remember his name. We all see the talent he (Pollard) has as a player. All three fly-halves, they're still very young but very mature in the way they play and the way that they read the game. I have got all the confidence in the world that he can do that job."

Samoa have already got a win under their belt after seeing off the United States in their opener but Alama Ieremia, the Pacific Islanders' assistant coach, is worried about how the South Africans will respond after their humiliating joust with the Japanese.

He said: "We are playing an injured Springbok, and an injured Springbok is very dangerous. We are under no illusions that it's going to be very tough. Physically, it's going to be one of the best matches of the round.

"The word excitement is very appropriate for us because when we get excited for a challenge like this, it's great, but we are under no illusions; we have to be very smart.

"Japan have made our job harder. The boys have been waiting for this challenge for a while. It also goes to show how tough this competition is. There is a lot of expectation on tier-one countries having a smooth run but it's great to see it's a very even competition."


From Belfast Telegraph