Reds and Wallabies utility back James O'Connor says he was "genuinely happy" for the Springboks when they won last year's Rugby World Cup.
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O'Connor, whose Wallabies bowed out of the tournament in Japan with a 40-16 loss to England in the quarter-finals, spoke exclusively to Sport24 this week when he shed more light on his South African connection.
After Australia's exit at the global showpiece, the 29-year-old who boasts 52 Tests said he didn't mind seeing South Africa lifting the trophy.
"My mum was born in New Zealand, but her grandparents were South African and her parents still live in South Africa. So that is my connection to South Africa. In terms of the World Cup, I was genuinely happy for the Springboks. At the time, I felt that if we couldn’t win I would be pleased if South Africa won the World Cup.
"As Siya Kolisi said, they were playing for something greater than themselves. You could just feel the energy and there was a whole nation behind them. The boys were literally playing for something bigger than rugby supporters. It was very powerful to be able to experience that when I was in Japan even though we weren't involved in the final," he said.
According O’Connor, coach Rassie Erasmus deserves heaps of credit for South Africa’s success.
"I think the Springboks’ turnaround is credit to Rassie Erasmus. There are now a few videos coming out of the Springbok journey and how they got there and you can see that Rassie is a proud but very humble and open man. I watched his team talk the other day and thought to myself: 'I could imagine being coached by this guy.'"
READ | James O'Connor's full Q&A interview with Sport24
- Compiled by Sport24 staff