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Jasper Wiese: South Africa back row to 'give my all' for Leicester Tigers amid speculation over future

South African back-row Jesper Wiese acknowledges the crowd after winnin the rugby World Cup final
Jesper Wiese made his debut for South Africa against Georgia in July 2021

Leicester Tigers' World Cup-winning forward Jasper Wiese says his focus is on "giving my all" for the club amid speculation over his future.

The 28-year-old back row has been linked with a potential move to Top 14 side Stade Francais after helping the Springboks defend their title in Paris last month.

Wiese was a replacement in the 12-11 win over New Zealand in the final.

"Leicester is a special place for me," Wiese told BBC Radio Leicester.

Wiese started three of the four pool games for South Africa at the World Cup but had to wait until the latter stages of the final for his first taste of action in the knockout phase.

Coming on for captain Siya Kolisi with eight minutes left, he helped close out their epic one-point triumph.

He says coming back to the East Midlands with his club has given him the chance to reflect on the past few weeks and bring some of what he experienced in France to Welford Road.

"You're away from home a long time and I think it's important, when you do come back, to reset," he said.

"We were able to come back this week, and people have helped us so much with the transition, learning the detail.

"It's brilliant to be back with everybody, settle in again, see the guys you haven't seen for four and five months."

'I've never been important enough to be in the papers'

Wiese has become a crucial figure in the Tigers side since joining from Pro14 side Cheetahs three years ago and was integral to Leicester's title-winning season in 2022, scoring a try in their 15-12 victory over Saracens at Twickenham.

Given the Springboks success, attention has inevitably shifted to the South African players now they are back, with Wiese admitting being in the spotlight is not something he is used to.

"I've never been in the papers - I've never had that kind of question - I've never been important enough to be asked," he said when responding to questions about how he sees his future.

"I'd like to keep it that way, but my focus is here, playing for Leicester, and giving my all.

"I am hoping to change a bit, bring something of ourselves to the team, and I am excited to play at home.

"For now, I'm here, I will give my everything."

From the Premiership Cup to the World Cup

Wiese is not the only player at Tigers coming back down to earth from the immense high of beating the All Blacks, with fly-half Handre Pollard also adjusting to life back in England and preparing for a return to Premiership action on Saturday.

Pollard, who scored all 12 of South Africa's points in the final, clinched his second World Cup win after being a key figure in the Springboks' triumph in Japan four years ago.

The 29-year-old said the celebrations were "big" and "very enjoyable" after the team famously beat France in the quarter-final, England in the last four, and New Zealand in the final - all by one-point margins to seal an unprecedented fourth world title.

Handre Pollard soaks up the atmosphere after winning the World Cup for South Africa
Fly-half Handre Pollard has scored 34 points across two World Cup finals

And for a nation experiencing so much social and economic hardship, Pollard said their win unified South Africa.

"Us playing for people at home is really real. It was emotional, I had to sit back for a few minutes to take it in," he told BBC Leicester.

"It's unbelievable to see a country with so many problems, with so many people against each other, unified for even 20 minutes.

"A lot of those people don't have a lot to smile about, so to give that to them... and it shows you the responsibility we have as a Springbok team.

"Nobody gave us a shot last time out [in 2019], but there was a big target on our backs [this time].

"It was unbelievable how the guys dealt with that pressure, and the way we had to do it - we played the top five nations in the world - it has to be the toughest road to the final ever."

Pollard's starring role at the tournament was even more stunning given he was not initially selected for the World Cup having sustained a calf injury playing in the Premiership for Tigers in May.

But Malcolm Marx's knee injury during the pool stage gave South Africa the option to call up a replacement and, after playing only 30 minutes for Leicester, Pollard was in.

He says he will always be grateful for Tigers head coach Dan McKellar giving him the chance for that brief cameo in the Premiership Rugby Cup win at Sale.

"Dan initially didn't want to play me, but he asked me if I wanted a game and I said absolutely," Pollard said.

"I could show the Springbok management I was ready and could help out if they needed me.

"That three weeks was very important for me, I conditioned well and I was in good shape.

"It was crazy, Thirty minutes in the Prem Cup to a [World Cup] final five weeks later - it's a great memory."

Leicester's South African contingent return to help a Tigers side who have made a slow start to the new Premiership season, winning only one of their four games so far ahead of Saturday's visit of Harlequins.