De Villiers interested in making return to Munster

JEAN DE VILLIERS is interested in returning to Munster after this year’s World Cup.

The Springbok centre spent last season with Tony McGahan’s side, before returning to South Africa to prepare for their defence of the Webb Ellis Trophy, which begins in New Zealand in September.

De Villiers, capped 67 times by his country, scored eight tries in 23 appearances for Munster last season.

Munster are looking to bolster their options at centre for next season, with Sam Tuitupou and Paul Warwick both departing shortly.

“I’m keeping all my options open and Munster is definitely one of them,” said de Viliers. “My contract at Western Province is up at the end of this season.

“When the time comes to make a decision, going back to Munster is something I will consider if I’m given the opportunity.

“I made so many friends there so it would be fantastic to go back. It would be like coming home again, in a way. I’d like to see it as a possibility after the World Cup.”

De Villiers is currently lining out with the Stormers, who are the top South African side in the Super 15.

The 30-year-old has also captained the team on a number of occasions in the absence of regular skipper Schalk Burger.

He added: “My experience with Munster last season was fantastic and they’re a team I’d recommend to any player.”

Meanwhile, Munster coach Tony McGahan has rung the changes again as he brings a stronger side back to Wales for the second week in succession — to take on old rivals the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium tomorrow night (6.30pm).

Following Munster’s dramatic win over the Scarlets last week, McGahan has to do without a trio of injured players, Johne Murphy (eye), Declan Cusack (shoulder) and Sam Tuitupou (calf), while others are either rested or re-diverted to play with Munster A against Moseley tomorrow afternoon (3pm).

Mick O’Driscoll and Denis Leamy are rested in advance of Munster’s Amlin Cup semi final date with Harlequins, while Paddy Butler, Denis Fogarty and Duncan Williams can all expect to be included in the A squad.

With two games left, nothing can topple Munster from their lofty perch at the top of the table, but team manager Shaun Payne is anxious to continue the recent run of form that has secured victories over Cardiff, Leinster, Brive and the Scarlets.

“There are a lot of changes from last week but we’re anxious to keep building momentum towards next week and Harlequins,” said Payne.

“What’s in it for us? We’re anxious to perform, we’re a competitive squad and we’re very lucky at the minute to have the vast majority of our players available for selection.

“In the past, maybe the selection of our team was cut and dried, but it’s nowhere near that nowadays.

“I know we’re going to finish top of the league, nothing will change that now, but there is a lot to play for; we need to perform, especially against the Ospreys, because potentially we could be meeting them again this season.”

While Munster have already secured that home play-off semi-final and will book a home final should they win that, the Ospreys’ shock defeat to the Dragons last week put a major dent in their play-off hopes.

The reigning champions dropped to fourth in the league and the Cardiff Blues are breathing down their necks, two points behind with a game in hand.

And Ospreys coach Jonathan Humphreys is adamant the Ospreys must win their two remaining games to have any chance of staying in the play-off places.

“We’re in a must-win situation. Anything other than a win puts us out of it. The stark reality is we are reliant on other people’s results now,” he said.

He doesn’t expect any favours from Munster, even if the Irish side have nothing particular to gain by winning this weekend: “Munster are a proud bunch. I don’t think they’ll be taking their foot off the throttle; this, after all, is the place where we beat them in the Heineken Cup. I’m sure they’ll want to put that right.”

MUNSTER (from): F Jones, S Deasy, S Zebo, D Howlett, K Earls, D Barnes, P Warwick, L Mafi, R O’Gara, P Stringer, C Murray. M Horan, D Hurley, W du Preez, D Varley, M Sherry, J Hayes, T Buckley, S Archer, I. Nagle, D O’Callaghan, D Ryan, A Quinlan, D. Wallace, T O’Donnell, N Ronan, J Coughlan.

Picture: WEIGHTY TASK: The Munster scrum is put through its paces as fans look on during an open session at Cork IT yesterday. Picture: Inpho/Lorraine O’Sullivan

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