De Villiers, who was born on 10 March 1945 in Johannesburg, played in 14 Tests and another 15 non-Tests for South Africa between 1967 to 1970. He made his Springbok debut against France in Durban in 1967 and scored four conversions and one penalty goal on the day as the hosts beat their visitors from Europe by 26-3.

Due to injury problems, De Villiers was forced to retire from the game early in his career. His last international was in 1970 in the drawn Test against Wales in Cardiff. He also represented UCT and Villagers at club level, and played in the blue and white hoops of Western Province from 1965 to 1975.

De Villiers underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his brain last year.

“HO de Villiers revolutionised fullback play with his counter attacks and he was widely regarded as one of the best to represent South Africa,” said Mr Alexander.

“Unfortunately, injuries robbed him of the opportunity to play in many more Tests for the Springboks, but if he had the opportunity, he would surely have added many more internationals to his record.

“HO will always go down as one of the legends of Springbok rugby and even today, his name is well known amongst the rugby fraternity. Sportsmanship and honour were character traits closely associated with him, and that counts more than results in the end.

“To lose any member of the rugby family is a tragedy, but even more so when he was a real gentleman and someone who loved the game, gave back and always maintained a high moral standard.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Sandra, their children, family, friends and other loved ones during this time of grief. We hope you will find solace in the memories of a wonderful man who represented South Africa at the highest stage and contributed so much to the game he loved dearly.”