Damian Willemse is ready to make an impact for the Springboks in the second Test
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CAPE TOWN - DESPITE suffering a disappointing 22-17 defeat in the series-opener against the British & Irish Lions last weekend, Springbok utility back Damian Willemse is confident that they can fight back and triumph in the end, just like they did at the 2019 World Cup.
On rugby’s biggest stage in Japan, the Boks lost their opening game to the All Blacks and were just about written off to go the distance at the event.
Despite that early setback, they went on to thump England 32-12 in a historic final in Yokohama.
And now, with their backs against the wall as they face a must-win situation on Saturday, Willemse believes the Boks can pull it off again.
“All of these guys are professionals and we have been in this position a few times, one thing that I can guarantee you is that we are not going to sit back and feel sorry for ourselves,” he said.
“There is still everything to play for, so we have been working hard. We are looking forward to the second Test, we will be giving it our all.”
Willemse has been named on the bench and will cover 10, 12 and 15 as Bok coach Jacques Nienaber has reverted to a six-two split.
The Stormers playmaker went on to say that the support he’s had in such a versatile role for the national side has been key in helping him grow his game and adapt.
“I have been in the system for a few years, since 2018, working with coach Jacques and Rassie (Erasmus), so I know the structures and I am used to it,” Willemse said. “I have been playing at 15 and 10, not so much at 12, but being so familiar with the structures and the way we do things at the Springboks, as well as having a guy like Damian de Allende with me helps me a lot.
“Having the coaches back me is also really important, with them giving me freedom and license to go out and play. With a series like this, which only comes once in a lifetime, it’s important for me to grab my opportunities and play with everything I’ve got.
“The coaches are always clear with their plans and where they see me. Playing at 12 is really not much different from playing 10, at 12 you’re just more in the frontline chasing kicks, but I have played 12 at Currie Cup and club level. At the end of the day it’s still rugby, so it’s not so much of a change for me.”
When asked about his preferred position, Willemse said: “Our goals and our ambitions are never higher than the Springboks’, so I am happy to help wherever I can and wherever the coach needs me. Anything to help the team and to help us win this series.”