CAPE TOWN – The Springboks cruising somewhat, leading 27-14 and at that stage, a bonus-point victory was on the cards.
There were just less than 20 minutes to go against Argentina at Kings Park, and then the big moment came – Damian Willemse went on to make his Test debut… at flyhalf, nogal.
All week we heard Bok coach Rassie Erasmus say that the Stormers pivot was probably going to be introduced at fullback, just to ease him into things.
Even the 20-year-old himself said afterwards that he didn’t expect to come on with virtually the entire last quarter still to play.
Capetonians would’ve been up on their feet for their new wonderboy, but it soon turned to despair. Dishing out a trademark long pass, Willemse tried to get the Bok attack going.
He was aiming at fellow debutant Marco van Staden, but the pass was just too high for the Bulls openside flank to reach, and the ball was tipped into the hands of Matias Moroni, who raced away to dot down under the posts.
Oops… Suddenly it’s game on at 27-21, and Willemse proceeded to kick the ball straight into touch as well, gifting Los Pumas a lineout just outside the Bok 22.
But Faf de Klerk’s touchdown soon afterwards closed things out for the South Africans, and secured the all-important bonus point.
So, a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Willemse, but he was thrilled to be on the pitch.
“What an awesome feeling, pretty special. Didn’t know I was going to go on with 18 minutes left. Made a couple of mistakes, but ja, just so blessed, privileged and honoured to have worn this Springbok jersey for the first time,” said the youngster from Strand near Cape Town on the Boks’ Twitter page.
“It’s an amazing feeling, and hard work pays off. Thank you to the people of Durban for coming out and supporting us as well. It’s just amazing.”
Willemse has again made the cut for the next Test against Argentina, in Mendoza on Saturday, and left with the squad to South America on Monday afternoon.
Coach Erasmus has suggested that Elton Jantjies may get game time in the second Rugby Championship clash, so Willemse could get a chance at fullback this weekend.