Willie le Roux says a spell in the international wilderness reignited his determination to earn a Springbok recall, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Over the course of the 2018 season, Le Roux has firmly established himself as the Boks’ first-choice fullback, with the 29-year-old producing a number of highly influential performances as a key playmaker in the back three.
It’s been some comeback for Le Roux, who had featured at fullback when the Boks suffered a first-ever loss to Italy at the end of 2016, before taking up a contract with English club Wasps.
Although Le Roux remained eligible for the Boks last year, he found himself out of the national reckoning, while it began to appear as if his Test career may well be over.
In the latest issue of SA Rugby magazine, Le Roux describes how he then found himself in the rather unique position of watching the Boks from the stands as a fan when the team faced France at Ellis Park last year.
‘I didn’t think my rugby was up to standard to play for the Springboks last year, and it was during my off time that a mate and I decided to go to the Ellis Park Test match in June. Sitting there in the stands, seeing the guys play and knowing everything that goes with it, it was something that lit a fire in me because you realise that’s where you want to be.’
Le Roux subsequently returned to Wasps with a renewed sense of purpose, while emerging as one of the standout players in the 2017-18 English Premiership season.
‘I think I definitely rediscovered my love for the game during that time,’ Le Roux said. ‘All of a sudden you’re scoring some tries and contributing a few assists in a team that’s playing an exciting brand of rugby. When you’re outside of the Bok squad, it makes you realise how much that jersey means because you never know when it will be your last Test.’
In the end, Le Roux’s return to form and a change in Bok coaching regime saw him earn a recall to the side earlier this year, while going on to feature in his 50th Test in last Saturday’s clash against the All Blacks.
‘I’ve realised now that you never want to let go of that green and gold jersey. I’ve been through rough patches, but I think I’ve learned from that and I’m just trying to be the same old Willie.’
– Read the full article in the latest SA Rugby magazine, on sale now