Springboks fullback Willie le Roux thought he had lost the match when he was shown a yellow card with 15 minutes to play on Saturday.
The 29-year-old is the most experienced Springbok back and rejoined the national setup once Rassie Erasmus took over.
Le Roux made his presence felt during the Springboks’ shock 36-34 victory at Westpac Stadium. He put winger Aphiwe Dyantyi away for the first of his two tries before scoring one himself after picking off a Jordie Barrett quick throw-in. But the fullback almost provided the match with a turning point in the wrong direction after he was given 10 minutes in the bin after a cynical ruck infringement close to his own line.
“I was thinking ‘am I letting my team down now? If they score now or we lose it’s going to be on me because I got a yellow’,” Le Roux said after the match. “But luckily it didn’t work out like that and I owe the guys a beer.”
Le Roux ranked his side’s performance highly when asked how it compares to other efforts in the green jersey.
“There have been quite a few good performances before, but all week we have been saying it was for us; us 23 playing, the management, all the guys travelling with us and training with us. It’s just about putting pride back in the jersey and making the people back home proud.”
A mammoth defensive effort proved to be a deciding factor in the victory, but the Springboks were still able to capitalise on their chances with ball in hand as they ran in five tries.
“Yes, there are games where you try a lot and it doesn’t work out and there are games when you get one or two opportunities and you take them and you win the game,” he said. “I think the All Blacks, when they switch on and you lose your concentration for one second, that’s when they capitalise. That’s why they’re so dangerous so you can’t give them any space or any opportunities.
“They roll the dice but they’ve been winning all their games,” he said. “It’s just about being awake for the scraps and the ball is bouncing.”
After the match le Roux was asked if it felt like he hit the lottery after the aforementioned Barrett throw-in went astray.
“I was actually going for the tackle full-on. I was going down to tackle [Ioane] and I think the ball back-spun into me. Like I said, luck of the bounce,” said le Roux.
“I ran and went to score the try but I thought the touch judge was calling me back or something because I didn’t know what was going on, I don’t score many tries. It’s a nice feeling. Maybe I could say I won the lottery there.”
The Springboks now head home and will host the Wallabies at Port Elizabeth on September 30th. Le Roux may have played his last match of the Rugby Championship as he heads to the UK to re-join Premiership club Wasps.
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