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Willemse to do Bok apprenticeship at fullback

Damian Willemse was one of three uncapped players named in the South African squad for the Rugby Championship.

Stormers flyhalf Damian Willemse. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - Springbok Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus will slowly integrate 20-year-old Damian Willemse into international rugby as he looks ahead to the World Cup next year.

Willemse was one of three uncapped players named in the South African squad for the Rugby Championship. Erasmus noted the exciting youngster’s positional flexibility as a positive.

“We see him as a future guy who can cover 10, 12 and 15, which is a wonderful thing to have in your team.”

Despite his young age, Erasmus is confident that Willemse can handle the demands of Test match rugby.

“I think he is one of the guys who are physically already ready for it. For his age, that’s pretty young. Versatility and physically up there already, we saw that when he played for the Stormers, he is probably one of the more physical flyhalves.”

The former Paul Roos student was handed the Stormers number 10 jersey this season and he put in some encouraging performances despite the franchise having a season to forget. However, Erasmus will likely introduce Willemse to Test rugby via the fullback position against Argentina.

"A position like 15 at his age currently is probably where the pressure might be a little less and you can blood him into a team. He will get his chance in the next two games against Argentina so let’s see how he goes and take it from there."

Erasmus referenced talented players who did their apprenticeship at fullback before taking up the flyhalf berth.

“Patrick Lambie started out like that, I don’t know how many games he played as fullback before he actually moved to 10. Frans Steyn, he played a lot of games at fullback and then he went to 10, I think it helps you a lot with how to manipulate the opposition.”

While Willemse certainly has the talent to make it as an international player, Erasmus noted that he is not guaranteed a spot for the World Cup next year.

"I’m not sure how quickly he’s going to get it right. There hasn’t been a World Cup won with a flyhalf under the age of 24. That’s your quarterback and it’s the position where you must be in control.

The Springboks begin their Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina in Durban on 18 August.