CAPE TOWN – Damian Willemse will start at inside centre for Western Province in the Currie Cup final, but Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus isn't planning on making the same switch during the Springboks' End of Year Tour.
WP coach John Dobson made the surprise call for their Currie Cup ultimate against the Sharks at Newlands today although the 20-year-old has never started a game at 12 at senior level.
The flyhalf has also played a few games at fullback for Province and Erasmus has made it clear that his plan for Willemse, for the near future at least, is at fullback. And at the moment, he seems to be the favourite to don the No 15 jersey next month.
During a press conference in Stellenbosch on Friday, the Bok coach said that inside centre is not a position Willemse will find himself in between now and the 2019 World Cup.
“You can look at it two ways and say it’s clever because guys such as Dan Carter did it and it helped his career‚” Erasmus said. “Or you can say the guy is being buggered around and this will make him a jack of all trades.”
“But I think you could see it as developing his all round game by phasing him into different positions where he can see how the opposition plays and thinks.”
“For Damian to play 12 will be an experience when you consider he won the 2017 Currie Cup at fullback. On balance I don’t think it is messing with his future but I won’t pick him at 12 between now and the 2019 World Cup because we have depth at inside centre at the moment,” Erasmus explained in his last media briefing before they head abroad - where they will face England, France, Scotland and Wales.
While Willemse is a definite for the No 15 Bok position, another player who will add depth is Gio Aplon with Wille le Roux ruled out of the England Test as it falls outside the official international window.
The 36-year-old, who has been working his magic for French club Grenoble for the past four years, last played for the Boks in 2012.
Erasmus gave an indication that Aplon might also feature in the back three, saying that he believes his “old head” will serve their young back trio well.
“A guy like Damian will definitely get his chance over there and Willie will be available for some of the games,” he said. “But you've got an experienced guy who has played in France and has a great left foot and who is playing brilliant rugby at this stage and who can help.
“I know Aphiwe (Dyantyi) is doing well and S'bu (Nkosi) is doing well, but there are not a lot of old heads around them in terms of helping the back three.”
“I might be wrong in terms of that team selection, but I think he is a good fit in terms of leadership and rubbing shoulders with some of the younger guy.”