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Jon Cardinelli

‘Willie’s proved himself at 15’


Willie le Roux excelled at fullback against Scotland Willie le Roux excelled at fullback against Scotland

Heyneke Meyer says Willie le Roux and several others have made emphatic statements on this tour to the northern hemisphere, reports JON CARDINELLI in Paris.

The Bok coach has been clear from the outset regarding his goals of this three-Test tour. The Boks have set out to win all three games, but Meyer's secondary objective has been to test a number of players in conditions that will be experienced at the 2015 World Cup.

Le Roux has, by all accounts, passed that test. He was solid in the Boks' win over Wales, and outstanding in the next fixture against Scotland. That second game was played in wet conditions and witnessed a lot of testing garryowens, and while Le Roux thrilled with his trademark attacking brilliance, he impressed the Bok coaching staff more with other aspects of his game.

MEYER SOLD ON LE ROUX

Le Roux has convinced Meyer that he has what it takes to play fullback at the 2015 World Cup. The gifted No 15, and yes, this is what Meyer considers to be Le Roux's position, could cement his place in the starting side with a strong display against France this week.

Meyer said it was always the plan to start Le Roux in at least one of the three Tests. He also conceded that Le Roux had earned a starting place for the showdown against France by virtue of that all-round display against Scotland.

'At one stage, I felt his kicking game wasn't good enough for an international fullback [during the Rugby Championship]. I'm very proud of how he's improved,' said Meyer.

'Everybody knows what he can do with ball in hand, but the biggest test was going to be whether he could play tactically in these conditions. He's trained very hard with [Bok kicking coach] Louis Koen. Suddenly he's a very tactical No 15, and his work on high-ball catching has paid off.

'Coming into this tour, I saw it as a 50/50 call,' continued Meyer. 'The pressure was on Willie to prove himself, as Zane Kirchner had played well in previous matches. Willie's now proved that he can play at this level and that he can produce something special. So the selection is fully deserved. He's not just an attacking No 15, but an all-round No 15.'

INVESTING IN BOTHA

Other players who have convinced Meyer that they deserve to be considered in the build-up to the 2015 World Cup include veteran lock Bakkies Botha. The fact that Botha is 34 does not factor into the equation.

'I see him as a long-term investment,' said Meyer. 'It's a question of do you want to play for your country, are you fit enough, and do you make a difference to the team.

'I've seen what an influence he's had since returning. At first, it was just my plan to start him in the one game, but then after that game and seeing the effect he had on the youngsters around him, I decided to put him on the bench against France.

'He's not the world's best impact player, but I truly believe he's going to make a difference in the last 20. He knows the conditions, he knows the French players, and he will really get the guys up.

'I am loyal to performance, so if he's 39 and still up there with the best, then there's no reason why he can't play. It's in his hands, though, because we have a lot of good youngsters coming through. I think he's good enough.'

Meyer added that the loose-forward combination of Francois Louw, Willem Alberts and Duane Vermeulen has proved itself in these northern hemisphere conditions. No doubt these three players will strengthen their argument for future selection if they succeed in bullying the French at the Stade de France this Saturday.

Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

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