Willie le Roux Boks

Willie le Roux is still seen as a key figure for the Boks. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

TEST WEEK: Willie le Roux still has full backing of Boks!

Willie le Roux will still have a key role to play for the Boks on Saturday despite surprisingly being named on the bench.

Willie le Roux Boks

Willie le Roux is still seen as a key figure for the Boks. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Salmaan Moerat and Elrigh Louw are in line to make their Test debuts from the Boks’ replacements bench against Wales in Saturday’s opening Test at Loftus Versfeld. Notably, Damian Willemse has been rewarded for his standout form for the Stormers and has been picked at 15, while Willie le Roux will play off the bench.

READ | WILLIE LE ROUX TRAINING AT FLYHALF AHEAD OF 1ST WALES TEST

In explaining this decision at fullback, it must be remembered that Willemse had been earmarked to bank some meaningful game-time at fullback on the Springboks’ end-of-year tour.

Those with good memories will recall that he started at fullback in the first game of the 2021 UK tour against Wales, but unfortunately suffered a head injury early on, which scuppered the plans for the Boks to build some depth at 15.

More than seven months later, the Boks will revisit the plan to give Willemse some much-needed minutes in the No 15 jersey, which also stands to reason considering what good form he has been in for the Stormers in the URC.

Although he played much of the domestic season at inside centre, the Boks clearly still view him primarily as a fullback who can cover flyhalf and centre.

Le Roux has been included on the bench to offer the experienced back-up the Boks need, while he will also offer flyhalf cover to Elton Jantjies.

On Tuesday, coach Jacques Nienaber reiterated that despite some criticism of Willie Le Roux, he plays a crucial role in the team, both on and off the field.

“We have the added advantage of having several players that are quite versatile,” Nienaber said. “So a guy like Damian Willemse for example can cover flyhalf and centre in addition to fullback, while Kwagga covers each of the loose forward positions and can even slot in at wing with his Blitzbok experience.”

Meanwhile, it’s interesting that Nienaber has opted for Louw rather than Stormers superstar Evan Roos, but the fact that the Bulls forward can cover multiple positions in the pack does make him an appealing selection.

LIVE | SPRINGBOKS V WALES: 1ST TEST, LOFTUS VERSFELD – SATURDAY 2, JULY

Of course, Louw is also familiar with the conditions on his home ground of Loftus, so it’s a perfect place for him to make his Test debut.

“We have a fantastic crop of young players who have really been working hard at training and putting up their hands, and it is pleasing for us as coaches to give Salmaan and Elrigh this opportunity,” said the Boks’ coach.

“Salmaan was with us on our tour to the UK last season, and despite being so young he brings a different sense of experience as a former Junior Springbok and SA Schools captain, while Elrigh also featured in a World Rugby U20 Championship and has been playing senior provincial rugby for a while.

“We have a plan for the season in terms of giving some of the young players a chance to show what they can do at international level, while at the same time taking stock of the seasoned campaigners and where they are in terms of their rugby.

“Unfortunately, with such a big squad there will always be a few unlucky players, but it is a fine balancing act to ensure we win Tests, build squad depth, and transform as a team in the way we play.”

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Boks team to face Wales in Pretoria:


15 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 15 caps, 5pts (1t)
14 – Cheslin Kolbe (Toulon) – 18 caps, 45pts (9t)
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 26 caps, 25 pts (5t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Munster) – 58 caps, 35 pts (7t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 25 caps, 100 pts (20t)
10 – Elton Jantjies (NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes) – 44 caps, 326 pts (2t, 65c, 61p, 1d)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Yokohama Canon Eagles) – 36 caps, 25pts (5t)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 11 caps, 0 pts
7 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 51 caps, 5pts (1t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 63 caps, 30 pts (6t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Panasonic Wild Knights) – 56 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks) – 97 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 46 caps, 5pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks) – 48 caps, 45 pts (9t)
1 – Ox Nché (Cell C Sharks) – 9 caps, 0 pts

Replacements:
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 46 caps, 50 pts (10t)
17 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 59 caps, 5pts (1t)
18 – Vincent Koch (Wasps) – 31 caps, 0 pts
19 – Salmaan Moerat (DHL Stormers) – uncapped
20 – Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls) – uncapped
21 – Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo) – 19 caps, 5 pts (1t)
22 – Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers) – 21 caps, 25pts (5t)
23 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 72 caps, 60 pts (12t)

Boks’ record against Wales:

Played 37, Won 30, Lost 6, Drawn 1, Points for 945Points against 586, Tries scored 111, Tries conceded 48, Highest score 96, Biggest win 83 Points, Win % 81

Match stats:

  • Cheslin Kolbe needs one try for his 10th try and 50
  • Elton Jantjies is currently in fifth place of all-time Springbok scorers (326 points) and he needs 10 points to pass Bryan Habana (335 points) in fourth
  • The Test match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday will be the 38th Test match between South Africa and Wales.
  • The Springboks need to score 55 points for 1 000
  • Saturday’s Test will only be the fourth Test match at Loftus Versfeld between the two countries.
  • The three previous Tests’ scores were as follows: 1998 – SA 96, Wales13; 2004 – SA 53, Wales18; 2008 – SA 37, Wales 21. The average score is 62-17.

Miscellaneous:

  • The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is
  • There are 222 caps in the backline with 381 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 342
  • The average caps per player in the backline are 24, the forwards 42, while the players on the bench average 31.