My First House - Dotting Down, Jean de Villiers

Springbok centre Jean de Villiers wasn’t kidding when he suggested that visitors might need GPS to get to his new house at Oude Westhof, in Cape Town’s northern ‘burbs. It’s a confusing place of twists and turns, where street names range from types of wine (think ‘Chardonnay Road’ or ‘Burgundy Drive’) to botanical species. Which is probably all fitting, since Oude Westhof was once situated on three farms and is now close to the popular Durbanville wine route.

But eventually you’ll pop out at Jean’s home, feeling like you’ve had a heavy trip along that wine route. Soon you’re upstairs, plopped onto a man-size leather sofa, with Jean gesturing towards the stunning views of the Paarl and Stellenbosch mountains, and his beloved two-year-old Jack Russell, Leilo, doing a thorough inspection of your ankles to ensure you pass muster.

‘I’ve lived in the house for about nine months now, although I’ve stayed in the area for the last three years. The first house I bought was down the road in Van Riebeeckshof,’ says Jean. Although it had three bedrooms, a double garage, a study and a large erf, the house itself was only about half the size of his current one. ‘When I first viewed this house with the agent, it immediately struck me as the kind of place I could imagine myself living. The funny thing is, the house wasn’t even for sale. But the agent knew the owners so we worked it all out.’

It’s easy to see how he could imagine himself living here. The prominent hillside position of the house affords it sweeping views from all the living areas. Jean says the sunrises ‘are really beautiful from here’ but sheepishly confesses that he’s seldom up in time to appreciate them, as getting up early isn’t really his strong point.

‘I’m the kind of guy that loves entertaining, so it was important to have space to do that. It’s so lekker to be able to come back here after a match, chuck some meat on the braai, have a few beers and just chill out with friends,’ he adds. Knowing the variable Cape weather, there’s a built-in indoor braai right in the TV lounge/bar area, as well as one outside at the pool. And the high ceilings are also put to good use: one corner near the indoor braai has a built-in wine rack right to the roof.

Are finely honed Springbok athletes allowed to guzzle red wine and meat? Don’t they have diet programmes that stipulate protein shakes and nothing else every four hours? ‘Ag,’ reckons Jean, ‘it’s all about moderation. Plus I grew up in the Boland [he went to rugby super-school Paarl Gym, which recently had four alumni in the Bok squad] so it’s normal for me. I tried putting the good wines at the top so I wouldn’t be tempted too much but that system didn’t really work, and now there’s just the cheap ones left!’

Fittingly for a guy who likes to relax in between spending his professional life on planes, in hotel rooms or being pounded on the rugby field, Jean has rigged his three-bedroom spot out with all the essential boys’ toys. The whole house is wired for sound – ‘Sometimes our parties may get a bit much for the neighbours,’ he admits – so he can listen to his music indoors or out. There’s a pool table, a granite bar, a fireplace, custom-built couches (‘I told the guy I needed to be able to lie down and stretch out!’), and a water feature in the passage (‘I’ve had to switch it off because it was spuiting on the floor’).

But don’t think that it’s all play and no work: the bottom storey, which houses the triple garage and a separate flat, also has a Very Serious Study. It’s panelled in dark wood and holds all Jean’s prized memorabilia: his first Western Province and Springbok jerseys, as well as a photo of his golf team with President Mbeki. But he’s the first to admit that he doesn’t spend as much time here as he should… but then, what world-famous 26-year-old wants to be locked up in a study all day?

The rest of the house is also scattered with reminders of his glittering career, especially bags and bags… and more bags of kit from all his tournaments. ‘When I was looking for a house, I told the agent I had to have lots of cupboards to hold all my stuff. I live out of a suitcase, so it’s great to have some space. And check this out,’ he says somewhat proudly, somewhat modestly. It’s a whole wardrobe neatly packed with all his old rugby boots! ‘Sometimes I feel like a bit of a girl,’ he admits, gesturing to a massive dressing area with wall-to-wall storage and a cavernous en-suite bathroom.

It’s all a far cry from his first place, a flat off Cape Town’s Kloof Street he shared with a mate after a year’s stint at Stellenbosch University. Then came the move to Van Riebeeckshof and, now, Oude Westhof. ‘I like to be settled’, he says. ‘All my life, I grew up in the same house. My parents still live there. I want my kids to grow up with stability, not moving around.
‘It’s a big step when you sign that bond for the first time but you’ve got to do it. My mom keeps reminding me that having a house is a responsibility but the kid in me is still very much alive. But I know that, even though it’s a lot of money, you’ll get a good return one day. I did pretty well out of my Van Riebeeckshof house, so it was worth it.’
Then comes the question that every hack must ask: ‘So Jean, do you prefer…’
‘Inside,’ he says immediately.
‘You’ve been asked that before, I take it?’
‘Yup,’ he grins.

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Words: Angela Aschmann Photography: Julian Goldswain