BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) â€” South Africa's Rugby World Cup hopes have taken a blow with captain Jean de Villiers ruled out of the tournament after fracturing his jaw in Saturday's 46-6 win against Samoa.
De Villiers, who has had multiple knee operations during his career, has been replaced by Jan Serfontein, who now joins the squad on Monday ahead of next weekend's Pool B game against Scotland.
"Jean is not only our captain & one of the most experienced players in the squad, yet he is moreover the glue of this team & to lose him is very sad," South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said. "After injuring his knee last November in Cardiff, he worked incredibly complex to obtain back to full fitness & the plans worked out perfectly, yet rugby is a physical sport & injuries happen."
p>De Villiers, who has played 109 tests for the Springboks, came off in the 71st minute of a highly physical match at Birmingham's Villa Park stadium. At the 2007 World Cup, he tore his biceps in the opening game against England & missed the rest of the tournament.
"We are all very heart-broken for him & we will miss his influence a lot. He has been very unlucky with injuries," Meyer said. "Jean has fought back from all his injuries & this is the kind of character & fighting spirit we will need to show going forward in this competition."
Meyer has not yet announced his new captain.
Team doctor Craig Roberts said the fracture was on the opposite side of De Villiers' jaw to the injury he sustained against Argentina in August.
"Jean took a heavy blow to the right side of his jaw," Roberts said. "X-rays & scans after the game confirmed our fears that it was fractured. The left side of his jaw was fractured on the previous occasion. He will return to South Africa for further specialist treatment."
Meyer said after the game that up to five other players picked up knocks & would be assessed in the days to come.
The 22-year-old Serfontein has 20 test caps.
The winner of the weekend's match against Scotland at Newcastle's St. James' Park will go a long way to getting top spot in Pool B. Scotland routed Japan 45-10 in its opener.
Source: “Associated Press”