- Damian Willemse is
likely to make his Springbok debut
at fullback when he comes off the bench against Argentina on Saturday, but he
could find himself thrown in at flyhalf if injury strikes in the wrong areas
for the Boks.
With Elton Jantjies not in the
mix this weekend, Willemse will serve as both the fullback and No 10 cover off
the bench in Durban.
The 20-year-old operated as
Robbie Fleck's Stormers flyhalf for almost all of the 2018 Super Rugby season,
and he was largely impressive throughout that campaign.
While Willemse's pace,
distribution and stepping ability combine to make him one of the most exciting
attacking prospects in South African rugby currently, what really impresses
coach Rassie Erasmus is how solid he is defensively.
Willie le Roux is comfortably the
first-choice Springbok fullback currently, but Erasmus is looking to build
depth in the position ahead of the World Cup in Japan next year.
Warrick Gelant is out injured,
while Pat Lambie could also make a return to the national side before 2019, but
right now the stage is set for Willemse to take his chance.
"I would like to see him at
fullback just to know what we have as we try to build towards next year,"
Erasmus explained from the Bok team hotel in Umhlanga on Thursday.
While most of South Africa knows
Willemse for his flyhalf ability following his impressive 2018, Erasmus was
equally pleased with what he showed during last year's Currie Cup campaign for
Western Province at fullback.
"There is enough experience
there to be able to handle that. Rugby Championships are a totally different
beast and hopefully we will be in a comfortable enough position where we can
put him on," Erasmus added.
"I’m not sure when we’re
going to put him on. If we get an injury at 10 then he can go to 10 or if we
got one at 12 then Handre can move to 12. It’s nice to have a Frans Steyn type
While the talent is not in
question at all, Erasmus says that how Willemse copes with the mental aspect of
Test rugby is crucial.
"I think he’s one of those
younger guys who physically can stand up. You don’t doubt his physicality if
you compare him with other guys his age," Erasmus said.
"We know how he can tackle,
he’s got a great step and a good boot.
"The challenge will be
pressure and expectation, but if he gets through that he is a talent and maybe
he can do it for us at the World Cup as a utility player.
"I can understand why the
hype is there."
Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:05.