Willie Le Roux after the 2023 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match between France and South Africa at the Stade de France in Paris, France. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Springbok full-back Willie Le Roux insisted that South Africa would not under-estimate the All Blacks when the two teams meet in what promises to be a titanic encounter in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final.
In what is often dubbed the oldest and hardest-fought rivalry in rugby union, Le Roux said “you can never write off the All Blacks”.
“The rivalry goes back a long time,” the veteran said, predicting “a spectacle, an amazing game” at the Stade de France.
“There’s definitely a lot of respect between the All Blacks and Springboks.”
After two thrilling victories in the quarter- and semi-final over France (29-28) and England (16-15), Le Roux admitted that “the emotion for the last two weeks was pretty high”.
“But when you step off field and you go to bed that night, you wake up the next morning and it’s the next job.
“This week is a World Cup final week. That high (from the quarter-and semi-finals) has gone, it’s now just focus on one job.”
Bok assistant coach Felix Jones, the former Munster and Ireland back who will join England after this World Cup, added: “The mood in the camp is as you would expect for a World Cup final.
“Everyone is hugely excited, a high level of focus. Everyone will want to get their detail down early in the week and concentrate on delivering a performance.”
There was no update on the ongoing World Rugby investigation into hooker Bongi Mbonambi, whom England flanker Tom Curry accused of using a racial slur during the semi-final.
Jones said the history of the rivalry between New Zealand and South Africa, which includes a 1995 World Cup final that the Boks won, had not been “thrown around too much early in the week”.
“But I think everyone has it in their mind, they are conscious of the rivalry. They are conscious this is another time we will meet New Zealand in the final.
“It drives excitement and it adds to the occasion.”
With Jones destined for a new assistant coaching role with England and Jacques Nienaber due to quit to take over from Stuart Lancaster at Leinster, there is much change to come in the Bok coaching set-up.
But Jones insisted that “emotion is not coming into it too much”.
“We are just hugely excited because of the game and there are plenty of players on both sides where it might be their last-ever game for South Africa or New Zealand.
“The coaches are taking a bit of a back seat there and focusing on the players and making sure the team vibe or team atmosphere is correct.”
© Agence France-Presse