With Frans Steyn on Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber’s speed dial, the time is now for Damian Willemse to cement his place as the national team’s ultimate utility back.
As they prepare to host Wales for three Tests next month, Nienaber announced a 43-man squad last week.
Steyn,35, was one of the big omissions after suffering a hamstring injury while on duty for the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup, but Nienaber reveals that they will call him up once he’s fit again and there is a need to do so.
With the ability to kick long-range goals and also play at flyhalf, centre and fullback, the two-time World Cup winner has become a regular fixture on the Bok bench over the years.
And asked whether Willemse is now their “new Steyn”, coach Nienaber says from their training camp in Pretoria: “We have long-term projects with players and Damian’s started in 2018.
“He’s 23 now and already has 14 Tests to his name - so he’s built some experience. We always thought he is a guy that could take over from Frans.
“We started with him at 15 where you need the same skill set as a 10 but have more time on the ball. At 12 he had an outstanding season with the Stormers.
“If we have any injury, Frans will be back with us if he is fit. We hope that we can use Damian now in the Tests against Wales.”