Jean de Villiers was born on 24 February 1981 in Paarl. A product of Paarl Gimnasium, the nursery of many a future South African star player, De Villiers made his first impact at international level in the South African Sevens team, playing in ten of the eleven legs of the 2001–02 World Sevens Series, helping his country finish in second spot. He was also a member of the squad that finished third in the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Also in 2002, he made his first international impact in the 15-man game at the U-21 Rugby World Cup, scoring four tries in the tournament for the victorious Junior Springboks.
He made his first senior-level appearance for South Africa in November 2002 against France, but suffered a major knee injury five minutes into the game. After regaining fitness, he became an important player in the Boks’ 2004 renaissance, which saw them earn an unexpected victory in the Tri Nations Series that year. Both he and his former Paarl teammate Joubert earned a share of the try-scoring lead in the 2004 Tri Nations, with three apiece.
De Villers won the World Cup with South Africa in 2007, although he tore his biceps during the opening game of the tournament and took no further part. In 2009 De Villers won a second Tri Nations with South Africa.
In November 2014 while playing against Wales in Cardiff, he suffered a potentially career ending injury that involved dislocating his left knee with tearing of major ligaments, reconstruction with artificial ligaments and rehabilitation allowed him back into the game. After recovering from the injury De Villers captained South Africa during the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but he fractured his jaw during the second match and was ruled out of the tournament.
De Villiers previously played for Western Province in the Currie Cup, the Stormers in Super Rugby, Leicester Tigers in Premiership Rugby and internationally for South Africa, for whom he was named captain in June 2012.
De Villiers announced his retirement from test rugby on 27 September 2015 following a jaw fracture he sustained at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
In May 2016, Jean de Villiers, former Springbok Rugby Captain, signed with SuperSport. Capped 109 times by South Africa, De Villiers is now working as an in studio analyst and also carries out live outside broadcasts. He has joined the heavy weight SuperSport panel, which includes the likes of Nick Mallet, Bobby Skinstad, Ashwin Willemse and Naas Botha.