DHL Stormers boss Allister Coetzee has praised-soon-to-be Vodacom Super Rugby centurion, Jean de Villiers, calling him ‘a true warrior and a real WP Rugby man’.
The inspirational De Villiers will lead the DHL Stormers into battle against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday, becoming just the second-ever Stormers centurion in the process.
The skilful and speedy back made his debut as a raw, but talented 24-year-old against the Sharks on February 25, 2005 and has since developed into one of the most feared players on the international circuit.
Speaking from Auckland on Tuesday – after announcing his team to take on the defending champion Chiefs – Coetzee paid tribute to his skipper and centre star, telling www.iamastormer.com: “Jean de Villiers epitomises what it means to be a Stormer.
“He’s been through the wars, as a DHL Stormers player, for the jersey… a Western Province Rugby man. Now, as a leader, he’s a great example to a lot of young players who have aspirations of one day playing for the DHL Stormers.”
The Stormers came close to an historic victory in Christchurch last week – before losing 13-14 – but they remain determined to come away from New Zealand with a win behind their name, especially in light of De Villiers’s huge landmark.
“There’s a couple of sore bodies in the team, but the belief is there and the excitement is there,” said Coetzee, ahead of their second tour fixture.
“We’re under no illusions that it will be tough against the Chiefs in Hamilton, but if you want to play at the highest level this is what you have to face.
“We know we have to pitch up, physically in order to come out on top, but even more so for Jean as we would love to make it special for him in this great occasion. Jean is a true warrior and a real WP Rugby man and we’re hoping to make this 100th game special for him, which he deserves.”
In typical selfless fashion, De Villiers himself preferred to deflect any praise directed at him.
When asked about the prospect of reaching the landmark on Friday, he replied: “It’s very much business as usual (in terms of my preparation and focus).
“To be honest, I haven’t really been thinking about it (100 games) a lot and I will be approaching this weekend’s match as I do all my games for the DHL Stormers.”
However, whilst extremely humble ahead of his huge achievement, De Villiers said he was very thankful for all the memories since 2005 and now. “There’s been some fantastic highlights and obviously some very low points too,” he said.
“I think the great thing about being involved in a team so long is seeing the progression of the team over the years.
“There was a time that we were struggling as a franchise, in terms of making the play-offs and developing a team to be competitive. (So) to be part of that rebuilding phase and getting it back to where we are now has been quite pleasing.
“Yes, some people might point to the fact that we haven’t won the competition yet, and yes we haven’t, but to see that sort of improvement and to see the younger players develop has been pleasing too.
“The highs definitely outweigh the lows,” he added, “but I suppose the thing that keeps you going is that we’re still hunting the trophy and trying to win this competition, which is not easy. You always have to aim high and we’re still doing that.”