ON SATURDAY at Loftus, Willie le Roux will earn his 50th Test cap when the Springboks run out to face the All Blacks in their final Rugby Championship match of 2018.
It is a milestone that perhaps didn’t seem likely as recently as last year, when former coach Allister Coetzee was backing Andries Coetzee as his fullback.
Under the new leadership of Rassie Erasmus, Le Roux has emerged as key to the Springbok cause and has been in superb form in 2018.
But, speaking from Pretoria on Thursday after announcing his team, Erasmus told a story about how he passed on signing Le Roux during his time as Stormers coach.
“I was actually chatting to him (Le Roux) about the time I was coaching at the Stormers, and he had come over from Boland on trial,” Erasmus remembered.
“I had essentially told him ‘no, you’re not good enough’, and he went to the Cheetahs instead.”
It was during his time at the Cheetahs between 2012 and 2015 where Le Roux began to make a real name for himself, while he also enjoyed a year in Durban with the Sharks in 2016.
These days, however, Le Roux is with Wasps in England where he is considered one of their biggest weapons too.
“He is the backbone of our Springbok team,” Erasmus added.
“So he’s definitely proven me wrong and I’m so happy for him. He’s got a real calming influence and brings experience to the back three.
“I’m really proud of him.”
Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:05.