Willie Le Roux, the most experienced back in South Africa’s squad, will play just three Rugby Championship matches and one test in November under a deal agreed with Wasps, his Gallagher Premiership club.
Le Roux’s international rugby career has been revived by the arrival of Rassie Erasmus as Springboks coach and the full back was recalled for the test series win over England in June following an outstanding campaign for Wasps.
When Dai Young, the Wasps director of rugby, signed Le Roux, the full back’s international career had reached a natural end, however, a combination of a new regime in charge of the Springboks and the eye catching rugby produced in the English season dramatically changed the situation. Now, Le Roux , who has won 44 caps, provides much needed experience to a youthful Springboks back line that will have to do without his talents after the double header with Argentina which kicks off their Rugby Championship campaign on August 18 in Durban – his 29th Birthday- with the return in Mendoza a week later and the match with Australia on September 8.
Le Roux, who made his debut for the club in March last year, will then return to Wasps having missed the Premiership games with Worcester, Exeter and Leicester with Young happy to agree to release his first choice full back for one of the Springboks November tests. If Le Roux remained with the Springboks for the entire Championship he would miss six Premiership matches and only return just before the European Champions Cup begins.
Young is one of the main reasons Le Roux was recalled by South Africa having met with Erasmus and put forward a compelling cases for a test return for his multi-talented full back.
Young, who is currently overseeing Wasps training week in Portugal, told RugbyPass: “ You could ask the question; If Willie had been playing in a Wasps team producing rubbish rugby would he have been recalled? There is no doubt that your style of play helped push his case for a test recall and we are always delighted when one of our players gets international recognition. However, the fact is that when we signed Willie we didn’t expect him to be playing for South Africa, but he goes with our best wishes.
“Willie is likely to miss our first three Premiership matches and we have worked this out through discussions with everyone involved. It is great that he is back in test rugby and with a change of coach, Willie wanted to be part of it again. Willie will be back for three Premiership games leading into the European matches and he may go back for one more game with South Africa so the maximum games he will miss for Wasps will be four.
“Rassie has been good to deal with and every player wants to play test rugby if they have that opportunity and if there was a different regime in charge of South Africa then I don’t know if Willie would have wanted to continue. The World Cup in Japan next year is a massive draw and we have seen players getting back involved with Australia. If this was the first year of the four year World Cup cycle that may not be the case.
“We haven’t had a fight about this because we saw the writing on the wall in June when he returned for South Africa in the series with England and did well. Prior to the change in coach, we had never had any contact with South Africa about players in our squad.”
Young believes his squad can cater for the loss of Le Roux in those opening three games with Rob Miller ready to take over at No15 while Jimmy Gopperth can also play in that role along with New Zealand Sevens player Ambrose Curtis who has arrived to bolster the back line options which include All Black No10 Lima Sopoaga, who has replaced Danny Cipriani, now a Gloucester player.
South Africa are set to use the uncapped Stormers No10 Damian Willemse at full back during the Rugby Championship to offer an alternative to Le Roux.