Should he stay or should he go now, to paraphrase The Clash. Well, not exactly now, but when the season is over.
I reckon it would be fair to say that Jean de Villiers hasn’t fully captured the imagination of Munster’s supporters – yet.
However, it would also be fair to say that Reds fans are aware that they have a major talent at their disposal who is quite capable of turning a game on its head given the opportunity.
Friday evening at headquarters would do nicely Jean…
The Boks centre has shown glimpses of his enormous talent over the last four games, crossing the line in three of those games for a hat-trick of tries. The general consensus appears to be that he is a success story about to happen and he’s winning the supporters back after what could be best described as an indifferent start to his Munster career.
His poor form saw him lose his place for back-to-back fixtures versus Perpignan in the European Cup late last year.
The South African, who was described as a “pleasant, modest and honest bloke” in today’s Irish Times, admitted that being dropped shook him out of his lethargy.
However, and maybe Limerick’s self exiled hurlers might take note, he didn’t hang around sulking like a big girl’s blouse after he lost his place.
Instead he got stuck in a started helping out with the squad, as confirmed by Paul O’Connell who said he was carrying around more bottles than the water boy.
“I just made a conscious decision to not affect fellow team-mates and still giving them 100 per cent support from my point of view,”
de Villiers may have struggled coming to terms with his new environs after signing a one year contract – reputed to be worth €350,000 a year, with an option on another 12 months – for Munster following an energy-sapping summer series against the Lions. He was also involved in the Tri -Nations.
He hasn’t had a break from the game for over a year. And face it, if your looking for a handy season with a side that hasn’t a notion of winning anything, Munster is the last place on the planet you should be.
They’ll be at it hammer and tongs again tonight at Thomond Park in another Irish- Anglo shoot out. This time Northampton stand in the way – don’t mention the previous.
It’s been described as a do-or-die game, a winner takes all scenario, victory or burst, apply any cliché you want.
But, and sorry to rain on your almost perverse desire to watch a game in a state of nervous exhaustion, Munster, even if they lose, will almost certainly make the quarter finals as one of the best second-placed teams.
However, if they do lose tonight they will be playing away from home in the last eight. A victory will secure home advantage, three games away from winning the trophy for a third time.
de Villiers, who has been named in an unchanged 15 from last time out for the northampton game, understands the maths and told the Irish Times that he is very pleased to be where he is; in Limerick with his Munster team-mates – despite the texts he’s getting from his friends back in South Africa telling him that it’s about 40 degrees.
He added: “I must say the professionalism within the Munster squad and with individuals is fantastic. I think the work ethic of the guys is what gets Munster through the tough times. It’s a great team to be a part of and I’m just happy to be a Munster player.
“Even before I came over I knew the history of Munster rugby and the success they’ve had in the Heineken Cup; I think in the last 12 years not failing to make the quarter-finals. Even now building up to this game the guys are saying this is the best time being a Munster player – the last game before the play-offs, do or die, everything to play for, the whole of Munster supporting you and just a great game to be a part of. So, hopefully I can do my part as a player.”
Meanwhile, the Six Nations break should give the 28-year-old the chance to re-charge his batteries from what has has been a hectic period in his career by any standards.
Come the quarter finals – if Munster win tomorrow, or even if they lose, maybe they should play for a draw, eh Snapper and Bill? – he should be be in a position to fully deliver on his enormous potential.
And who knows,with Keith Earls tearing around alongside him like a wasp on speed, they could both provide the catalyst to deliver the biggest prize in Northern Hemisphere club rugby for a third time.
However, given that his desire to represent his country at the 2003 and 2007 World Cups were wrecked by injury the general consensus is that he won’t take up the option of another twelve months with Munster and will return home to try and stake his claim on the Boks side that will defend the Webb Ellis trophy in 2011.
Meantime, if a headmaster was writing a report on de Villiers first term (so far) it might go something like this.
“Average, got much better, potentially brilliant.”