Ross Roche
Senior sports writer
2 minute read
2 Nov 2021
5:05 pm

Willemse gets ‘extended opportunity’ as Willie plays mentoring role

Ross Roche

The regular Springbok fullback will help develop the younger players, among them Willemse and Aphelele Fassi.

Damian Willemse will get an extended run at fullback for the Springboks during their UK tour this month. Picture: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Damian Willemse is set to get an extended run in the Springbok team on their end of year tour to the UK, starting on Saturday when he will line up at fullback in their opening game against Wales at the Principality Stadium.

Willemse has been a regular part of the Springbok squad since his debut in 2018, but in that time he has only made 14 appearances with just three starts and it seems he is now set to get a solid run on the end of year tour along with Aphelele Fassi, while regular starter Willie le Roux plays a mentoring role.

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“Ever player brings something different to the team. Willie has played the majority of the Test matches since we came in, in 2018 and we know what we have in Willie,” explained Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber on Tuesday when he named his side for the match against Wales.

“I said if we were to play in a World Cup final on the weekend we would probably select Willie because of his experience and what he has done for us in the past. But this is an ideal situation to give Damian an opportunity. We haven’t given him an extended opportunity where he can play and settle himself into the fullback position, so we felt this is a great chance to do that.

“We said to Willie please help us develop him and Aphelele, so it’s a little side project and Willie is feeding as much information as he can into them. But in saying that both Aphelele and Damian and Willie are different players with different x-factors and different skill sets.

“So there are certain things from a team perspective that they will have to drive, but then they have to bring their own specialness to the game and find their own foothold in the game that suits their own style of play.”

‘Excited for the opportunity’

Willemse himself is relishing the opportunity to show what he can do at 15 and is looking forward to the weekend’s clash and then the rest of the tour against Scotland and England over the coming weekends.

“It is a massive honour and privilege to play for the Springboks as well as to play against a side like Wales at the Millennium Stadium, so it’s going to be big and we are looking forward to the match,” said Willemse.

“The preparation has been going well so far, we had a good week in Paris as well, so I am excited for the opportunity to make a positive impact for the team and for us to do well this weekend.”