Damian Willemse, who will start at fullback for the Springboks, also played at No 15 in the 2017 Currie Cup final. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

He is a left-field choice – a flyhalf who played inside centre in the Currie Cup final, and now finds himself at fullback in his very first start for the Springboks.

And it’s against England at Twickenham on an autumn Saturday. But Damian Willemse backs himself more than most players, because he is hungry to perform on the highest stage.

And that self-belief is what makes his captain Siya Kolisi feel at ease.

The 20-year-old Willemse will face the biggest challenge of his short career when he runs out in the No 15 jersey against England on Saturday (5pm SA time kickoff).

And while the Western Province star will be pleased to know that no rain is forecast, it will be a chilly 12 degrees come kickoff, and a stiff wind of around 23km/h is predicted.

It certainly won’t be Newlands or Loftus, and England co-captain Owen Farrell will be sure to send up a few ‘bombs’ for Willemse – who has three Test caps – to defuse.

Kolisi, though, suggested his young protégé won’t get stage fright.

“I chat to him quite often. He’s young, but he’s very confident. I don’t really worry about him because he is very matured,” the Bok skipper said at his pre-Test media conference in London on Friday.

“When he came to the union where I play, he is very mature as a player – the way he looks at clips, studies the game and watches it... he watches himself at training as well.

“It gives me so much confidence. I don’t want to go and speak to him and put added pressure on him.

“I am looking forward to seeing what he does, and I know he is going to learn a lot. He has a guy like Willie to learn from, and now Gio. So, I am excited to see how he does at fullback.”

Kolisi and the rest of his pack can make Willemse and the Bok backline’s lives much easier if they can secure front-foot ball.

And while the likes of Steven Kitshoff, Eben Etzebeth and Duane Vermeulen may relish getting stuck into an English pack without the heavy-hitting Vunipola brothers Mako and Billy, Kolisi is well aware the loose trio battle will have a huge bearing on the outcome.

“That (Boks having a bigger pack) doesn’t mean anything – it’s all about the day. Sometimes experienced guys help a lot, but it’s all about the day,” he said.

“They play all their rugby here and know how it works. It’s a different atmosphere to what it was in South Africa. It’s my first time playing here also, and I am looking forward to it.

“It’s a tough area, where the battle will start. Their pack is also pretty strong, and I know they’ve made a couple of changes.

“But this side of the world, that is where the game is won and lost. Set-piece is vital, and we are looking for a tough set-piece battle, as we know they are good at that. They showed that in South Africa (when winning at Newlands).”


IOL Sport

Like IOL Sport on Facebook

Follow IOL Sport on Twitter