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'To all the critics, I ask that you lay it off because he is probably one of the best'

By Ian Cameron
Willie Le Roux and Damian Willemse of South Africa celebrate victory at full time during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Gold Final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Michael Steele - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Jake White has asked critics of Springbok fullback Willie Le Roux to ‘lay off” as he makes his debut for the Bulls as the Pretorians welcome Connacht to Loftus Versfield this Saturday in the URC.

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Le Roux – who signed for the Bulls in the off-season – has had his fair share of critics in recent years, despite being a near ever-present in South Africa’s back line when fit.

White was beaming with excitement when asked about getting the opportunity to see Le Roux in action for the Bulls, calling for the Loftus faithful to back him and the incredible knowledge he brings.

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Stedman Gans on the #RWC return to the Bulls

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Stedman Gans on the #RWC return to the Bulls

“I have never coached him but I watched him play back in the day in Boland as an under-19 and never realised he would end up being what he is now. I read on social media what people say about him and just cannot believe what I see.

“He has only been here for a week but it feels like he has been here for six months, he is unbelievable. He is like having a coach there. He is very clever and extremely skilful, I cannot wait for tomorrow to see how he goes because I am sure people will see just the value that he has.

“To all the critics, I ask that you lay it off because he is probably one of the best if not the best player to have played for the Boks and if he is not the best then he is definitely the cleverest.”

White went on to add: “The guy is unbelievable and I cannot believe it has only been a week. Even when he was at the World Cup he was asking for the defensive and attacking plays, wanting to understand what we are doing and now that he is here it feels like he has been here for a whole season. I can now understand why he gets picked week in and week out.”

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“In one week, I can’t believe what he has been able to do. It is like having a coach there, a coach who understands the game. I did hear this from the other players before arriving here, Canan (Moodie), Kurt-Lee (Arendse), Marco (van Staden) all said he is unbelievable to play alongside and now I see it too.

“Hopefully everybody else sees it too.”

Asked about the Vodacom Bulls Boks returning to play, White commented: “It’s a wonderful thing for us, they returned and were asking to play. Marco was saying he can’t wait to play, so it’s great for us,”

“The excitement and energy they bring is nice.”

White’s team undergoes eight changes, with Le Roux starting at fullback, backed by David Kriel and Stedman Gans in the centres.

‘Speed Kings’ Sergeal Petersen and Sebastian de Klerk start on the the wings, while scrumhalf Zak Burger and flyhalf Jaco van der Walt lead at halfback.

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The front row features Gerhard Steenekamp, Akker van der Merwe, and Wilco Louw. Reinhardt Ludwig and captain Ruan Nortje lock, with Marco van Staden and Elrigh Louw as flankers and Nizaam Carr at eight. The impact squad includes Simphiwe Matanzima, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Mornay Smith, Janko Swanepoel, Cyle Brink, Embrose Papier, Chris Smith, and young World Champion Canan Moodie. Gates open at 14h00 at Loftus, promising family entertainment. White deflects Sharks game queries, focusing on the Connacht challenge.

Fourth place Connacht are riding high after beating the Sharks on SA soil and White isn’t underestimating the challenge the Irish province poses.

“I know Andy Friend well, and I think they have changed a few things. They are a difficult team to beat and they beat us by playing direct rugby when we played them away from home. We saw it again when they played last week, once they get closer to the try line they go for it,”

“Their result against the Sharks will give them a big confidence coming up to Loftus. However, we must not get sucked into that but rather focus and do what we need to do from our side!”

BULLS: 1. Gerhard Steenekamp, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Wilco Louw, 4. Reinhardt Ludwig, 5. Ruan Nortje (c), 6. Marco van Staden, 7. Elrigh Louw, 8. Nizaam Carr, 9. Zak Burger, 10. Jaco van der Walt, 11. Sergeal Petersen, 12. David Kriel, 13. Stedman Gans, 14. Sebastian de Klerk, 15. Willie le Roux

REPLACEMENTS: 16. Simphiwe Matanzima, 17. Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 18. Mornay Smith, 19. Janko Swanepoel, 20. Cyle Brink, 21. Embrose Papier, 22. Chris Smith, 23. Canan Moodie

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