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Pressure mounting on Willie le Roux to retain Springboks fullback jersey over young stars

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Getty Images/Gallo Images)

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The pressure on incumbent fullback Willie le Roux to hold on to his Springbok jersey seems to be building every round of United Rugby Championship as the young stars of South African rugby shine.

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Aphelele Fassi at the Sharks and the Stormers pair Damian Willemse and Warrick Gelant continue to make outstanding plays from the back to push their Springbok claims.

With Gelant just 26 years old, Willemse 23 and Fassi at 24, all three are much younger than the experienced Le Roux at 32.

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In the Stormers 32-7 hammering of Glasgow it was Gelant who had one of the best impact performances in living memory, setting up a number of breaks that led to Stormers tries with sublime handling.

His first was from a kick return where he linked up with openside Hacjivah Dayimani, putting the openside through the gap that led to a try to Herschel Jantjies.

Only minutes later he was linking up with Dayimani again, this time on a pivot pass that led to Leolin Zas running away for his eighth try of the year.

His other touches were just as impressive, showing incredible skill to offload a ball around the back of a defender.

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Not to be outdone by the play of Gelant, Sharks fullback Fassi pulled off a similar deft offload to set up a try against Leinster.

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The fans were impressed with their performances but questioned why a player as talented as Gelant can’t get an invite to a Springbok alignment camp.

His last test for South Africa came against Canada at the pool stages of the Rugby World Cup. He was not used in 2021 when the Springboks returned to action after a year off.

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