Willie le Roux has enjoyed playing a mentoring role in the Springbok backline this year. Photo: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix

CARDIFF – Willie le Roux wears his heart on his sleeve when he plays for the Springboks, and he is equally passionate when he speaks about what it means to represent South Africa on the rugby field.

Le Roux has been one of the Springbok stalwarts in 2018, and he has repaid Rassie Erasmus’ faith in him with consistently good performances in the Green and Gold No 15 jersey.

The Bok fullback quickly admits that he prefers to stay away from the media spotlight, and that he is at his most comfortable in the company of his teammates in the closely-knit Springbok environment – something he missed a lot last year.

“I wasn’t picked for the Boks in 2017, but my heart was still, and will always be, with the team,” said Le Roux, who plays for English Premiership club Wasps.

“I remember going home last year and sitting in the stands watching the guys play France in June.

“So, when I returned to the Springboks this year, it was emotional for me because as a player you just want to be part of this environment.

“And when I made my 50th Test appearance (against the All Backs in Pretoria), that was pretty emotional too, with my family in the stadium.”

Upon his return to the Springboks, Le Roux was cast into the role of senior backline player and mentor for an otherwise inexperienced group of outside backs, which consisted of Aphiwe Dyantyi, Sbu Nkosi, Makazole Mapimpi and Damian Willemse.

It is a role he enjoys, and Le Roux says the current team environment makes it easy for him to slot in and share his experience with others.

“Everyone in the team is equal, and it makes a big difference,” said Le Roux, a strong and elusive runner with ball-in-hand and a prolific try-scorer.

“The guys are playing for each other more, and we know what it means for our country back home. We enjoy going out and wearing the jersey.”

The Springboks play Wales this weekend in their last outing of the tour to the United Kingdom and Europe.

The Welsh are currently in a great form with an unbeaten run of eight games, occupying third spot on the world rankings.

“We are looking forward to the match,” said Le Roux.

“This is the last game of the season for a lot of the guys, so one more week of hard work and they can have some time off. To end the tour on a high would be unbelievable for the squad and the people back home.”

African News Agency (ANA)