Le Roux pips Dagg at No 15
Willie le Roux (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - The Springboks’ Willie le Roux has eclipsed even established superstar All Black Israel Dagg to the fullback berth in a neutral newspaper’s Castle Rugby Championship “team of the week” selection after Saturday’s first-round fixtures.
The Sydney Morning Herald, clearly downbeat about Australia’s performance in their 47-29 home thrashing at the hands of New Zealand, overwhelmingly opted for All Black and Bok players in their side, based on performance in every specific position over the course of the two games, which also saw South Africa trounce Argentina by a record 73-13 in Johannesburg.
They named nine players from the defending world champions’ ranks and five Bok standouts in the XV, leaving room only for Wallaby open-sider Michael Hooper - heroic in the losing cause at ANZ Stadium - to complete the line-up.
The South Africans picked are Le Roux and captain Jean de Villiers in the backline, and forwards Eben Etzebeth
, Jannie du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss
Le Roux’s slippery talents being noted is significant, given that considerably more experienced, crowd-pleasing Test customer Dagg did his bit, too, in the All Blacks’ polished bonus-point triumph in Sydney.
South Africans will also bear in mind that ahead of the Championship, there was still talk that Bok coach Heyneke Meyer
would opt for a more conservative player in the last line of defence like Zane Kirchner.
But 24-year-old Le Roux’s X-factor on attack was only apparent once more on Saturday, as he earned his fourth cap for South Africa and went about his defensive chores competently as well against the Pumas.
In the imaginary line-up, Le Roux is joined in the back three by in-form All Black wings Ben Smith, who registered a hat-trick of tries against the Wallabies, and the freakishly quick and powerful Julian Savea.
This was the Herald’s full team, based on Saturday’s two matches:
15 Willie le Roux (SA), 14 Ben Smith (NZ), 13 Conrad Smith (NZ), 12 Jean de Villiers (SA), 11 Julian Savea (NZ), 10 Aaron Cruden (NZ), 9 Aaron Smith (NZ), 8 Kieran Read (NZ), 7 Michael Hooper (Aus), 6 Steven Luatua (NZ), 5 Sam Whitelock (NZ), 4 Eben Etzebeth
(SA), 3 Jannie du Plessis (SA), 2 Adriaan Strauss
(SA), 1 Tony Woodcock (NZ).
*A Sport24 selection might have featured an identical backline, but perhaps found room for Juandre Kruger
at lock alongside compatriot Etzebeth, given that the former Bulls star produced one of his best Tests yet for the Boks. Versatile Bok flank Francois Louw
, who can play either on the open or blindside, would have run Luatua close for a berth, too.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing