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HAMILTON - JEAN de Villiers will fly back to Cape Town with his Springbok teammates and Tri-Nations medal, but within three days he will join his new Irish team, Munster.
De Villiers scored a critical intercept try in Saturday's Test in Hamilton that swept South Africa to a 32-29 win over the All Blacks and their third Tri-Nations trophy in 13 years.
De Villiers paid tribute to a special team, but especially captain John Smit.
"Fantastic," said De Villiers, "we've now beaten them (New Zealand) three times but next year they will come back again harder and they'll be tougher.
"As for John (Smit). Well, he is just the cornerstone of the team, the gel that keeps it all together.
"He is so inspirational and a fantastic player. To see the comments about him week in and out and he just takes it, shrugs it off and keeps playing great rugby."
Now that De Villiers, along with Francois Steyn (joining Racing Metro in France), is going overseas, he is no longer eligible to play for South Africa as players abroad are not considered for selection.
Nevertheless, De Villiers paid tribute to coach Peter de Villiers.
"I think Peter has taken a lot of criticism. But the fact is he is the right guy for the job at the right time," he said.
"He got it spot-on and worked well to get the victories and he must take credit for being able to bring the team together . The glory must go to him."
On a personal note, De Villiers said it was a good way to leave his national commitments.
"I don't think I could have asked for a better way to go off to Munster than lifting the Tri-Nations with a win like this behind our backs.
"Hopefully I'll be back to play in the green and gold some time in the future," he said.
Bryan Habana said this victory meant more to him than winning in 2004. "This one was sweeter than 2004 because back then I never got to play and make a contribution," Habana said. - Sapa