Springbok Captain forced out of World Cup squad through injury

 If Jean De Villiers keeps playing as much rugby as he currently is, this fictitious newspaper headline will become an unfortunate reality and South Africans will be left wondering why something wasn’t done about it. 


With the Springbok Captain in what some are calling the best form of his life, there should be urgent concern over whether he will be able to compete in the next World Cup. If you are any doubt as to De Villiers being “overplayed”, read this article by Simon Borchardt: http://www.sarugbymag.co.za/blog/details/managing-de-villiers .

So what is the danger of De Villiers playing so much? Quite simply, a severe injury with a long lay-off period that may include the World Cup.

In a previous article we summarised the risk of injury in rugby (http://wp.me/p2UGKS-2U) (1): it doesn’t take a genius to work out that rugby union carries an above-average risk of injury to the general player. However, what experts have discovered is that this risk is even higher for those playing at highly competitive levels. An extended Super 15 season, the Rugby Championship and the Currie Cup final stages would all constitute “highly competitive”. Furthermore, De Villiers has two other risk factors for injury that he can’t do anything about: his (relatively old) age and history of previous injuries (1). Worst of all, there is a final risk factor that De Villiers is being subjected to and, unlike the other injury risk factors, this is something that can be modified: exposure time (2,3). To explain “exposure time” let me ask you this: Who is at greater risk of a suffering a shark attack: the Cape Townian who surfs once a month or the guy who surfs every day of his life?

In this analogy, De Villiers is being forced to surf every day, at Seal Island (a popular hunting ground for Great White Sharks near Cape Town). The more he plays at this very competitive level, the greater his cumulative risk of injury becomes.

For all our sake, especially De Villiers’, I sincerely hope this headline does not come true. But something has to change in order to stop this nightmare becoming a reality!


1.     Williams S, Trewartha G, Kemp S, Stokes K. A Meta-Analysis of Injuries in Senior Men’s Professional Rugby Union. Sports Med. 2013 Jul 10.

2.     Gabbett TJ. The development and application of an injury prediction model for noncontact, soft-tissue injuries in elite collision sport athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):2593–603.

3.     Gabbett TJ, Jenkins DG. Relationship between training load and injury in professional rugby league players. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. Sports Medicine Australia; 2011 May 1;14(3):204–9.

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