South Africa were taken all the way on home soil by Sir Ian McGeechan's tourists in a stunning three-match series before losing to three British and Irish based teams on their autumn tour.
But despite experiencing defeat to English club sides Leicester Tigers and Saracens and an Ireland team packed with Lions last November, de Villiers sees France as a far bigger threat to their chances of retaining their world title.
"France produced some outstanding rugby during the Six Nations and are definitely a major threat for the World Cup title next year," said De Villiers, whose side meet the Grand Slam Champs in a summer Test in Cape Town on June 12.
"In recent years they have had more success against the Boks than any other nation and a good performance against them is vital, considering that the next time we meet them won't be until the World Cup at the earliest.
"Marc Lievremont has put together a big and physical side who play at the pace of the Tri-Nations teams and we'll have to be at our very best if we want to beat them.
"There are a couple of big 'ifs' involved, but, if the seedings go to form, the next time we meet could well be in World Cup, which gives this Test extra meaning."
The last time the two sides went head-to-head, it was France who secured a 20-13 victory in Toulouse.