BIRMINGHAM, 27 Sept - Springbok captain Jean de Villiers has been ruled out of the remainder of Rugby World Cup 2015 after breaking his jaw in the Pool B victory against Samoa at Villa Park on Saturday.
Heyneke Meyer, coach of the Springboks, described this latest injury to 34-year-old De Villiers as a massive setback and said his squad were “heartbroken”.
Jan Serfontein has been called up and will join the squad in Newcastle on Monday. An announcement on the captaincy for the match against Scotland on Saturday will be made on Wednesday.
“Jean is not only our captain and one of the most experienced players in the squad, but he is also the glue of this team and to lose him is very sad,” said Meyer.
“After injuring his knee last November in Cardiff, he worked incredibly hard to get back to full fitness and the plans worked out perfectly, but rugby is a physical sport and injuries happen.
“We are all very heartbroken for him and we will miss his influence a lot. He has been very unlucky with injuries, but his character clearly showed when he had to go back on the field when Jesse Kriel picked up an injury."
De Villiers' World Cup career has been cursed. He was injured in the final warm-up game before the 2003 World Cup and suffered a serious bicep injury in the opening game of the tournament four years later when he watched his teammates go on to lift the trophy.
He was also injured during the 2011 World Cup.
“Jean has fought back from all his injuries and this is the kind of character and fighting spirit we will need to show going forward in this competition," said Meyer.
“While this is a huge and emotional setback for the team, we will now have to regroup and refocus before we start our preparations for Saturday’s match against Scotland.”
Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts said the fracture was on the opposite side of De Villiers’ jaw to a similar injury sustained against Argentina in Durban in August.
“Jean took a heavy blow to the right side of his jaw in the 72nd minute of the match,” said Roberts. “X-rays and 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.
“Apart from Jean’s injury, there were a lot of bumps and bruises following a very physical match but we will reassess those in the next day or two.”
De Villers has been affected by a catalogue of injuries since 2002 and has undergone six knee operations, including one after the Wales game last November. Artificial ligaments were used to help rebuild the joint.
At the time the Springbok skipper admitted he feared he would never walk again and described his recovery as "a miracle”.
He made his comeback against Argentina in August when he suffered his broken jaw, and against all the odds he recovered to be fit for the Rugby World Cup 2015. But now he is heading home already, his tournament over after two games.