Few fans would have recognised the name Willie le Roux at the start of the 2012 Super Rugby season. However, these same fans would now probably start a riot were this man to miss out on selection for the Cheetahs any time soon.
Hailing from Stellenbosch, Le Roux was signed by Griquas at the end of last year after a fantastic First Division season with the Boland Cavaliers.
Cheetahs coaches Naka Drotskè and Hawies Fourie quickly picked up that there was a special talent at their pre-season training camps and backed the youngster to make his mark for the Bloemfontien-based franchise.
The exciting utility back has scored three tries and helped to create a further six (the most try assists in the competition) as part of an attack-minded Cheetahs backline and he can hardly believe his luck.
"The Cheetahs like to play running rugby so it's pretty much the perfect fit for me," Le Roux told this website. "To be able to play the type of attacking game I enjoy the most has been really good for me."
While the fleet-footed backline ace has featured on the wing for the Cheetahs thus far, he is equally capable at flyhalf, but feels most at home in the No.15 jersey.
"My favourite position is definitely fullback," he admitted. "I don't mind playing on the wing or at flyhalf if it means I can start, but I always play my best rugby from fullback."
Le Roux's style of play can compared to the French flair of old and, unsurprisingly, he spent a few months in France playing in the Under-20 league for Racing back in 2007.
While the experience of playing overseas was valuable, the style of play employed by the French teams was frustrating for the young South African looking to get his hands on the ball.
"I didn't enjoy the rugby over there very much because there was a lot of kicking and very limited running style of play that they used, so it didn't suit me at all," he explained.
However, the step up to Super Rugby has brought out the best in Le Roux, who is more careful in summing up his options on attack to make the most of attacking opportunities that could be rare in matches at this level.
"It's [Super Rugby] much quicker and harder than what I was used to [playing for Boland], and you need to make all your tackles whatever the situation is," he said.
"I've found that defences are much stronger, so you need to play clever rugby and can't just back yourself to run with the ball every time. Against the best players in the world it tests your decision-making skills."
The creative backline ace has adjusted well to life in Bloemfontein and admitted that finding a good sushi restaurant was key to his survival!
"I love eating sushi and I probably eat it about three times a week," he revealed with a chuckle. "I've found a good sushi place in Bloem... (so) I'm there often."
By Timmy Hancox
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