JEAN DE VILLIERS is to leave Munster at the end of the season in an effort to keep his Rugby World Cup dream alive.
However the South African international has not ruled out a return to the province after next year’s showpiece tournament in New Zealand.
SARU, rugby’s governing body in his native country, are adamant that players must be plying their trade on home turf if they wish to be in contention for squad selection.
De Villiers insisted that was the only reason behind his decision.
He said: “My decision to return to South Africa is solely determined by a desire to put myself in contention for the Springboks RWC 2011 squad. I feel this is perhaps my last opportunity to represents my country at the Rugby World Cup and after consultation with SARU it has become clear that to qualify for selection players must be playing their rugby in South Africa in the season leading up to the competition.
De Villiers, currently abroad with the Munster squad on a warm-weather camp, added: “I’m thoroughly enjoying my time here in Munster and I think it would be fair to say that had the RWC not been a factor, then I would be remaining for at least the next two seasons. I would not rule out returning here after RWC 2011 either, if the opportunity arose.”
But he insisted his immediate focus is Munster’s bid for silverware on two fronts, with the Magners League and Heineken Cup campaigns.
“There’s a lot of rugby to be played yet in the red shirt and I’m looking forward immensely to continuing my involvement with a great squad.”
Munster Chief Executive Garrett Fitzgerald said the decision was “totally understandable”.
He said: “Jean missed the 2003 World Cup through injury and played just 40 minutes in 2007. So his desire to represent his country in the most prestigious rugby competition is totally understandable.
“Jean made us aware of this scenario before he joined us last September. He has been a hugely positive addition to the squad this season. His influence has grown and continues to grow as he becomes more and more comfortable within the squad. While he will be a major loss, we fully respect his ambition and he will leave us at the end of the season with our very best wishes.”
After a slow start to life in Ireland, De Villiers has impressed in both his attitude and application and had become a fan favourite.
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