Springboks: Damian Willemse seen as the heir to Frans Steyn

Colin Newboult

Stormers playmaker Damian Willemse is being primed to take over from Frans Steyn as the Springboks’ next utility back.

The 24-year-old was a surprise inclusion for this weekend’s clash against Wales, getting in ahead of the experienced Willie le Roux.

Willemse has been chosen at full-back but he can also operate at either centre or at fly-half – much like 35-year-old Steyn – and South Africa believe his versatility will be important going forward.

“Damian is a similar project to Frans in that he can play No 10, 12, 15 and even wing,” head coach Jacques Nienaber told reporters.

“He is in that mould and we had a plan for him on last year’s November tour, but he got concussed early in the tour. Hopefully it works out better now and he gets extended exposure at this level.”

Fly-half call

Some were also shocked to see Elton Jantjies selected to start ahead of Handre Pollard against Wales but, with the Montpellier fly-half only arriving recently following his club’s Top 14 final victory, Nienaber insisted that it made sense to go with the 31-year-old.

“There is nothing sinister about our selections,” he said. “We want to select players we coach during the week, and the guy who has been training is obviously in the better position.

“We have boxes we want to tick and there is a plan for all 42 players – they know what the plan is and it can change because of injuries or if we don’t have performance. If things go our way on the field, our plan will play out over the next few weeks.

“This team has a balance between guys who have not trained over the last three weeks and those who have, and also a balance between those with experience and those who haven’t.

“There is a bigger plan and this week’s team is the best team we can pick in terms of balance and there is a massive responsibility on the 23 for this week to lay a foundation and to ensure there is performance because if that does not happen, then things will change, but if all goes well all 42 will eventually play.”

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