12 Jul 2015

Springbok skipper makes winning return

6:59 am on 12 July 2015

The Springbok captain Jean de Villiers has made his return to international rugby after knee surgery as South Africa started their road to the World Cup with a 46-10 win over a World XV in an exhibition game in South Africa.

Fullback Willie le Roux scored a hat-trick of tries to go with two scores from centre Damian de Allende, with further tries by lock Eben Etzebeth and scrumhalf Cobus Reinach at Newlands.

First five Handre Pollard had an off-day with the boot as he only landed two conversions and a penalty, while Pat Lambie, another returnee from injury, converted the final two tries.

Jean de Villiers has returned to international rugby after suffering this serious knee injury seven months ago.

Jean de Villiers has returned to international rugby after suffering this serious knee injury seven months ago. Photo: Photosport

The lone try for the World XV came from South African-born hooker Craig Burden, with first five Mike Harris adding a conversion and a penalty.

South Africa play Australia next in their opening match of the Rugby Championship in Brisbane next weekend.

The exhibition game was the first of five matches for the Springboks before they head to England for September's World Cup and amid some rustiness, there were also positives for coach Heyneke Meyer, most notably the return of De Villiers after seven months out.

The centre played the final 20 minutes off the bench and had a hand in their fifth try as he seeks to regain match fitness following a full knee reconstruction that saw him miss the entire Super Rugby season.

The World XV included seven players from European champions Toulon as well as Springboks JJ Engelbrecht, Gurthro Steenkamp, Flip Van der Merwe and Bakkies Botha, who captained the side in the final game of his illustrious career.

Signs the match would have more of a test-match feel than an exhibition game came early on when Botha took a heavy hit from a no-arms tackle at a ruck by Bok prop Jannie du Plessis and left the field for a concussion test.

He later returned.

South Africa were reduced to 13 men with 10 minutes remaining with flanker Francois Louw and Le Roux in the sin-bin, poor discipline that will disappoint Meyer as he seeks to reduce the team's penalty count.