South Africa have confirmed that they will be without the services of Jean de Villiers for the rest of their 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign. The influential captain – one of only seven players to retain their place in Heyneke Meyer's starting XV for a Pool B clash against Samoa following the shock defeat to Japan last week – had a try disallowed in the morale-boosting 46-6 rout at Villa Park, but also suffered a fractured jaw with eight minutes remaining, which has now ruled him out of the entire tournament.
"Jean took a heavy blow to the right side of his jaw in the 72nd minute of the match," team doctor Craig Roberts said. "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 re-assess those in the next day or two."
De Villiers has had a miserable time with injuries of late. After suffering a horrific knee injury during the autumn international defeat to Wales in November 2014, the 34-year-old was initially a serious doubt for the World Cup after fracturing his jaw for the first time in another loss to Argentina at the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship.
He was eventually deemed fit enough for selection, although Meyer subsequently described the decision not to to drop the centre following that shambolic loss to the Brave Blossoms at Kingsholm as one of the "most difficult" of his life. A hat-trick of tries from wing JP Pietersen and further scores from Schalk Burger, Schalk Brits and Bryan Habana as well as a confident performance from young fly-half Handre Pollard led to a much better performance from South Africa this weekend, although the head coach was quick to express disappointment at losing his skipper.
"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," Meyer said. "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. 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. 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."
In De Villiers' absence, South Africa have called 20-cap Bulls centre Jan Serfontein into their 31-man squad. He will join his teammates in Newcastle tomorrow, with a decision on a replacement captain to be announced three days before the Boks meet Scotland at St James' Park.