Springbok captain Jean de Villiers on Thursday underwent successful surgery on the left knee he injured in the final Test of the season against Wales, the South African Rugby Union confirmed.
De Villiers, 33, had a full reconstruction of the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments with an artificial graft, as well as a repair of the medial collateral ligament.
“The procedure went well, but at this stage it is difficult to determine an exact return to play time-frame,” said Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts.
“The use of an artificial graft should speed up his rehabilitation and hopefully increase his chances of making a successful return to the playing field.”
De Villiers, who now faces a race against time to be fit for next year’s World Cup, said: “My focus will now be on the arrival of our third child in the coming days.
“Thereafter it will be about recovering as soon as possible so I can start with my rehabilitation. I still have my sights set on going to next year’s Rugby World Cup and will do everything in my power to get to England.”
De Villiers was stretchered off the field in the 58th minute of the Springboks’ 12-6 defeat by Wales in Cardiff on Saturday after twisting his left knee and dislocating his knee cap.
The Springbok veteran returned to South Africa on Monday and was assessed by an orthopaedic surgeon in Cape Town, who advised that he needed surgical reconstruction of the knee.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has described the injury to De Villiers as “an unbelievable setback” ahead of the World Cup in England, which starts in September.