Cape Town - Damian Willemse will warm up for what looks like a probable first start in the Springbok No 15 jersey in next week’s Rugby Championship Test when Western Province host Griquas in a Currie Cup match at Newlands on Saturday.
With Willie le Roux returning to England to play for Wasps and thus unavailable for the clash with Australia at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, Willemse has been tipped as the likely replacement.
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has been grooming him for the role and his non-appearance in the match day squads in Australia and New Zealand - Cheslin Kolbe played off the bench instead - can be seen as an attempt by Erasmus to protect Willemse, who is only 20, from a potential confidence knock on foreign fields.
Willemse has played most of his rugby at the Stormers as a flyhalf but he is not new to playing fullback for WP coach John Dobson. He played fullback in last year’s Currie Cup final against the Sharks, with Robert du Preez starting that game as the preferred flyhalf.
But with Dillyn Leyds, who has been dropped to the bench for this game, in outstanding form at fullback, it is reasonable to speculate that Dobson would have opted for Willemse to play flyhalf were it not for a suggestion from the Bok management that he be tried in the last line of defence.
Western Province take on Griquas on Saturday at 19:30 while the Springboks face the Wallabies on September 29 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium at 17:05.
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