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Ken Borland

No.15 jersey ceded to Willemse, but Le Roux is still ‘crucial’

Posted on August 10, 2022 by Ken

Veteran Springbok fullback Willie le Roux may have ceded the No.15 jersey to Damian Willemse for the first Test against Wales in Pretoria on Saturday, but he will still be on the bench, with coach Jacques Nienaber saying he is “crucial to our attacking game-plan”.

The 32-year-old Le Roux, who gets more than his fair share of criticism, could earn his 73rd cap on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld and statistics prove the value he adds in often being the spark for the South African attack.

Acoording to a tweet released by Opta statistics on Tuesday, Le Roux has made the most offloads (40) and try-assists (35) of any Springbok since making his Test debut in 2013.

“Willie has lots of experience and he brings a lot to the team through the week,” Nienaber said on Tuesday. “He has knowledge to impart for the youngsters.

“I know people have lots to say about Willie, but look at how many times he makes the last pass to allow us to score a try. You must be able to see space and create to do that.

“What Willie does for our attack is outstanding. Sometimes he looks average in other areas and he always gets criticism, but the reality is he does lots and is crucial to our attacking game-plan,” Nienaber said.

While South African fans have been loving the exciting new talent that has exploded on the scene through the United Rugby Championship, Nienaber said youth will have to wait to be given its head.

“It was a tough selection to get to the final 23, but we have a plan in terms of what we want to achieve. We could have selected other players who would not have dropped the team,” Nienaber admitted.

“Hopefully we will see those guys operating in the near future for the Springboks. To get youngsters into the team is always a balancing act. You want to do it when you have momentum, because that makes it easier for them.

“And the only way to get momentum is by winning. It’s not easy to bring new guys into the team when the confidence is low.

“Sure, new faces will bring a bit of energy and renewal to the team, maybe some creativity, but you also want to be able to build that momentum,” Nienaber said.

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