South Africa v World XV
Willie le Roux of the Springboks scores a try and celebrates during the International match between South Africa and World XV from DHL Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Luke Walker/Gallo Images)

Springbok veteran Willie le Roux seems to have posted a farewell message to his Japan club, and his next move will be watched with interest.

Willie le Roux for Springboks ahead of Wales

Willie le Roux. Image: SA Rugby

Willie le Roux has enjoyed an extensive and illustrious career in Japan, having plied his trade for Toyota Verblitz since 2019.

However, it now seems that the 33-year-old will be parting ways with the club after this year’s World Cup.

“I’d like to thank the staff and my teammates for an epic four years,” the 33-year-old wrote on Twitter, “and to our wonderful fans for always being so supportive. I appreciate the opportunity to have represented such a great team. Arigato (Thank you).”

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Speculation has suggested Le Roux could be moving to another Japanese club, or perhaps return to Wasps in order to try and help them win promotion back to the English Premiership.

However, South African fans will hope to see Le Roux perhaps return to Mzansi, with the stalwart having previously been linked to the Stormers, while he of course previously played for the Cheetahs and Sharks.

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Beyond the career changes taking place at club level for the utility back, Le Roux is set for a big year on the international stage.

There is probably a two-player shootout for the coveted Springboks fullback berth. Damian Willemse started the 2022 season at fullback and looked set to make the position his own before an injury to Handre Pollard saw him shift to flyhalf.

Willemse is certainly a strong option at fullback, while Le Roux was highly influential in most Tests he played last year, and could be the best man for the job at the high-pressure World Cup.

It will be very interesting to see if the Springboks turn back to experienced Handre Pollard as their first-choice flyhalf after he recovered from injury. If that were the case, it would lead to a very tricky selection when it comes to determining whether Willemse or Le Roux should be the starting fullback.

Back-up options will be provided by Kurt-Lee Arendse, Cheslin Kolbe, and possibly Frans Steyn if he recovers from injury.

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The Springboks will kick off a bumper 2023 season against Australia in July in the opening round of the shortened Rugby Championship, which will officially signal the start of the matchday build-up to the 2023 World Cup.

South Africa will launch their Rugby World Cup title defence on Sunday, 10 September, against Scotland in Marseille, which will be followed by pool matches against Romania in Bordeaux (17 September), Ireland in Paris (23 September) and Tonga in Marseille (1 October).

The Rugby World Cup quarter-finals will be played on the weekend of 14/15 October, with the semi-finals on 20/21 October and the final on Saturday, 28 October.

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Faf de Klerk, Willie Le Roux and Damian de Allende. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images