Willie the best, a pest

2014-06-16 00:00

SPRINGBOK coach Heyneke Meyer and Wales counterpart Warren Gatland both sang the praises of fullback Willie le Roux after his man-of-the-match showing in South Africa’s comfortable victory in Durban on Saturday.

The Cheetahs speedster, playing in his 13th Test for his country, scored a fine solo try and had a hand in three others as the Boks eased to a 38-16 win at King’s Park.

“Willie is probably the best fullback in the world at the moment,” Meyer said after the game.

“He was world-class tonight. He didn’t set a foot wrong, he was unbelievable under the high ball and those chips were just outstanding.

“He is playing with a lot of confidence and has a licence to express himself. I am very happy about his progress since he started on the wing last season. I challenged him to improve his aerial skills and defence last season and he did that very well.”

Le Roux was prominent in almost every attack, setting up two Bryan Habana scores in the opening 21 minutes.

He then rounded-off an outstanding individual effort two minutes from half-time, chipping ahead from inside the 22, before regathering after the bounce fell kindly for him and not opposite number Liam Williams on his way to diving over.

Early in the second half, he played in franchise team-mate Cornal Hendricks for a try on debut. In fact, the only try he did not have a hand in was Duane Vermeulen’s first-half effort.

“I thought Le Roux was a pest,” was Gatland’s assessment of the 24-year-old.

“He was outstanding and caused us a lot of trouble.

“I think at the moment he’s definitely one of the best fullbacks in world rugby.”

Meyer also admitted that the hosts’ first-half showing — they led 28-9 at the changeover — was probably the best since his appointment as national coach at the start of 2012.

“It was definitely one of the most clinical 40 minutes,” Meyer said.

“I thought we were superb.

“The defence was awesome and I thought we were excellent in attack. To score five tries, I would have taken that any day.”

The result also helped banish memories of a troubled build-up, in which the Springboks were hit by the shock withdrawal of Francois Steyn for undisclosed reasons and lost several players to injury.

There were also question marks over their scrum after they underperformed against a makeshift World XV last week.

“It was a tough week with a lot of disruptions,” Meyer added.

“I asked the guys to put their bodies on the line today and I am very pleased with their response.

“We weren’t happy about scrummaging against the World XV, but I thought we were superb tonight. There were no penalties.”

Gatland, meanwhile, admitted his side’s poor opening half cost them.

“We struggled to cope with that pace and intensity in the first half,” he said.

“By half-time the game had gone away from us already and credit to South Africa for the way they played.”

The second and final Test takes place in Nelspruit next week.

— Sapa.


South Africa 38: Tries: Bryan Habana (2), Duane Vermeulen, Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks. Conversion: Morne Steyn (5). Penalty: Steyn.

Wales 16: Try: Alex Cuthbert. Conversion: James Hook. Penalty: Dan Biggar.

Drop Goal: Biggar (2).

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