CAPE TOWN, Feb 2 (Reuters) - South Africa captain Jean de Villiers thought his rugby career was over as he lay crumpled on Millennium Stadium turf last November
The centre suffered a tear to the anterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee in the final 15 minutes of the Springboks' last game of the year, a 12-6 defeat by Wales.
De Villiers is in a race against time to be fit for the World Cup and although the early signs are positive, there is also a chances he will never play again.
"I thought 'it's my last game ever ... it's the end'," De Villiers told South Africa's Sport24.
"Even when Johan van Graan, our assistant coach, got to me before I was carted off, I said to him 'gee, I didn't want it to end like this'.
"He's a very positive guy and said 'don't worry, it will work out'. I still thought I wouldn't be playing rugby again, and let's be honest, that may still be the situation. With an injury like this, it's the reality."
De Villiers is working on his rehabilitation and says that although his outlook is positive, he will not go to the World Cup unless fully fit and has no intention of being a passenger in the squad.
"It's so hard to tell," he said of his recovery time frame. "I don't want to put a date on it, put a percentage on it. I just want to give it a crack. I have one go at it.
"The thing with me is, I don't just want to go to the World Cup; I want to win it. I want to know I am good enough to be selected for it, and I want to win it with this group.
"Just going to the World Cup ... I don't know if that will be enough for me. If I am selected I want to know I am good enough and will make a positive impact. If not, I must just say that I gave it a good old crack and it didn't work out." (Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond)