Springboks legend Jean De Villiers reached out to Tom Parsons after his horrific knee injury 2 years ago

Springboks legend Jean De Villiers reached out to Tom Parsons after his horrific knee injury

"I absolutely loved Munster as a club and Ireland as a nation. It is somewhere that I have fallen in love with."

Jean De Villiers played just 23 times for Munster, eight years ago, but ask him about his time at the province and you'll hardly be able to stop the man.

The former Springboks captain joined The Hard Yards earlier this year to look back on his career and it is clear that he feels a real bond with the Emerald Isle.

Still, we were somewhat surprised to hear De Villiers had reached out to an injured GAA star and take the time out to send him an inspirational letter.

De Villiers suffered two bad knee injuries in his career with the second one - sustained at the 2015 World Cup - threatened to prematurely end his career. There was a class documentary about his comeback, over the course of eight months, that is really worth watching:

De Villiers knows all about the hard road back to full fitness so was only too happy to lend his support to Tom Parsons when he badly tore his knee ligaments earlier this year.

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Parsons spoke to SportsJOE at the launch of the Gaelic Players' Association 2018 Annual Report, and clearly has so much respect for the South African rugby legend. He said:

"A best buddy of mine, Joe McBrien - a club footballer - contacted him through a social media platform.

"Fair play to Jean, he sent me a fantastic, motivating, inspiring letter about the story of his recovery to come back at the age of 34, to play in the World Cup. The injuries were very similar, his reconstruction was fully artificial, which was different to mine. But himself and another guy, Eoghan Masterson who plays with Connacht Rugby... that guy has visited me two or three times, even in Santry.

"It’s amazing the goodwill from people, not only in the GAA community but in other sporting codes in Ireland. In this case a sport code totally disconnected from Gaelic game, and not even in Ireland, a guy who has given his time.

"Not only that, but his physiotherapist who rehabbed him is also sending regular information back to my wife Carol, tips and processes and procedures in rehab of this injury. It’s very encouraging, and it’s inspiring that these guys take the time out to respond to you."

Incredible stuff from De Villiers and a true measure of the man.

"I hope that if I can bounce back from this," said Parsons, "I can repeat that gesture of good will to maybe another guy who’s struggling and I’ll be sure to do that."