Cape Town – Fans may have “bad stuff” to say to Springbok fullback Willie le Roux when he makes mistakes on the field, but that won’t stop him from trying to make it to the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
The 32-year-old spoke recently about how he deals with criticism on the Use It Or Lose It Show on YouTube, which is hosted by former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers and his good mate Schalk Burger.
Le Roux played golf with his former teammates at the Val de Vie estate in Paarl – where he is also building a house – before rejoining the Bok squad for the end-of-year tour of Europe, which starts on November 6 against Wales in Cardiff.
The former Boland and Cheetahs star, who hails from Strand in the Western Cape and now plays his club rugby for Toyota Verblitz in Japan, is a much-maligned figure in South African rugby. He is loved for the moments of magic that sets up tries, or for how he is able to pluck up-and-unders out of the air under intense pressure.
But Bok fans are also quick to get on to his back when he drops one of those high balls, or kicks the ball directly into touch.
“It is hard sometimes. When I started at the Cheetahs in those days – in 2013, I started with the Boks – when I did something good there, everyone loved you,” Le Roux told De Villiers and Burger.
“And when I did something wrong there, people still found a way to like the way I play. To think how I progressed over the years, now I think sometimes they expect that it always has to come off.
“And when it doesn’t come off or you don’t play well enough, then supporters… that’s how it works – they’ve got bad stuff to say to you. So, I think in the earlier days, they were more forgiving to me than they are now. They are much harder on me now than they were at the start, but you just learn to deal with it.
“Like I know, if the coaches and my teammates back me – because they are always there for you, and they are the guys you go on to the field with, then that’s good.”
He has certainly been backed by firstly Rassie Erasmus and now Jacques Nienaber, and he is sure to wear the No 15 jersey against Wales at the Principality Stadium next week Saturday.
Le Roux, who has 70 Test caps, is also the first-choice fullback, at this stage at least, for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, but he is well aware that there are others pushing him for a starting spot.
Aphelele Fassi is on tour with the Boks as well, while Warrick Gelant has been in top form for the Stormers in the United Rugby Championship.
Le Roux recalled how he spoke to Erasmus about his shoulder injury before the 2019 World Cup final, where he said the then-Bok coach “just brushed it under the table”, and the rest is history after he produced a solid performance in the 32-12 win over England.
“I think, if the body allows it, if I can keep up, if I can still do my part and not drop the team, I will try my best to go and play if that opportunity allows (me),” he said about making it to 2023.
“There are so many young guys coming through as well that’s playing unbelievable rugby, so that’s pushing you and you have to stay on top of your game.
“I am in Japan as well currently, so if I get the call and I am involved, I’ll definitely do that. It’s hard to say no to the Boks.”
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