Springboks: Fly-half woes continue as Damian Willemse out of final Rugby Championship clash

Colin Newboult

South Africa have confirmed that fly-half Damian Willemse will miss their Rugby Championship denouement after sustaining a head injury during Saturday’s clash with Argentina.

Willemse has gone back to the Stormers to recover but they have decided against calling up a replacement, which means Frans Steyn is set to start this weekend.

Joseph Dweba, Warrick Gelant, Elrigh Louw and Salmaan Moerat have also been released from the squad, but Kurt-Lee Arendse and Sbu Nkosi have both been recalled.

Building depth ahead of World Cup

“We have been pretty unlucky on wing in the last few months in terms of injuries, which has forced our hand at giving players such as Kurt-Lee and Canan (Moodie) a chance at international level, and we are pleased with the depth we are now building as we get closer toward the Rugby World Cup next year,” head coach Jacques Nienaber said.

“Kurt-Lee had a great debut and played very well against the All Blacks, but he was unfortunately banned, and we are delighted to have him back as he’s a very talented player.

“Sbu has been in our system for several years now and he has recovered from injury, so we are excited to welcome him back. He has shown his class in several big matches, and he brings experience, so he will undoubtedly add great value to the squad.

“This also allows us an opportunity to take stock of the depth we have at wing as we are now a year out from the Rugby World Cup in France.”

Despite Handre Pollard and Willemse being absent, Nienaber has decided against recalling Elton Jantjies, who has been banished following reports of an alleged affair between the fly-half and team dietician Zeenat Simjee.

Steyn is therefore likely to take the playmaking reins for the final Rugby Championship clash against Argentina on Saturday.

In title contention

The Springboks are in contention to regain the title they last won in 2019, with them going into the concluding weekend level on points with New Zealand.

Ian Foster’s men face the Wallabies at Eden Park while the Boks take on Los Pumas at Kings Park Stadium in Durban.

This weekend is not the be-all and end-all for the head coach, however, with Nienaber also having his eye on the end-of-year tour.

“This year alone we have given close to 50 players an opportunity to play, so we have certainly ticked the box of creating squad depth, which is one of our key pillars for the team,” he said.

“We are, however, going into our last match of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and we think it would be more beneficial for these players to return to their clubs and provinces to gain valuable game time.

“We have a long and challenging year-end tour ahead, which will involve an expanded squad, and we need the players to be match fit so we can hit the ground running when depart for the tour.”

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