Willie le Roux

Springbok fullback Willie le Roux. Photo: PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images

Bok coach: Willie knows exactly where he stands

As Willie le Roux returns to the Bok starting lineup, coach Jacques Nienaber has reiterated the key role played by the veteran fullback.

Willie le Roux

Springbok fullback Willie le Roux. Photo: PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images

It’s been an interesting period in the career of Le Roux, who found himself substituted at half-time in the Springboks’ final Rugby Championship Test against the All Blacks.

Although Le Roux has unequivocally remained the Boks’ first-choice fullback under the leadership of Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus, the 32-year-old endured a forgettable 40-minute performance in that most recent appearance against New Zealand.

It led to a feeling that the stalwart may have fallen out of favor when he wasn’t included in the Bok match-day 23 against Wales last weekend, instead turning up on the sidelines as a water carrier.

Le Roux has been no stranger to criticism during his career, although some would suggest he is often unfairly made to be the scapegoat when the Springboks fail to fire as a whole.

Although it’s clear that Damian Willemse would have again worn the No 15 jersey this weekend if not for the concussion he sustained against Wales, Nienaber has highlighted what the long-term thinking at fullback has been.


“Willie’s been brilliant,” Nienaber emphasised on Tuesday after naming the team for this Saturday’s Test in Edinburgh.

“We said from the outset that we need rotation and we had an open discussion about it in front of everybody. It wasn’t just me and Willie sitting and chatting and then I chat to everyone else. The whole team knows what is our plan going forward.

“Willie knew that he wasn’t going to play. I made it clear to him that if we played a World Cup final then we probably would’ve started him. But we also needed to give Damian some game time, it’s just unfortunate that he got injured.”

“This isn’t some project. It’s not a project on Willie and not a project involving Damian,” Nienaber added.

“All we want to do is have Willie, with all his experience, drip-feeding some insights to Damian, showing him the processes he follows on a weekly basis and just talking to him.

“That’s what I mean with a project. It’s almost a little side one in a manner of speaking. We’re not letting the older guys hand over the baton to the younger players because we can all see that the experienced guys are still performing at a high level. 

“We have a lot of faith in Willie. It really was just rotation. We know we need to build depth. We want to win every game but also see our younger guys grow.”