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Willemse to replace injured Kriel in Bok RWC squad

Jesse Kriel sustained the injury in the opening match of the tournament against New Zealand and although his condition has improved, it was insufficient to put him in contention.

Springbok centre Jesse Kriel. Picture: @JesseKriel15/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - The Springboks have been dealt a major blow for the remainder of the Rugby World Cup with centre Jesse Kriel ruled out of the rest of the tournament due to a hamstring injury.

Kriel sustained the injury in the opening match of the tournament against New Zealand and although his condition has improved, it was insufficient to put him in contention for either of the remaining two pool games.

He will be replaced in the squad by 21-year-old Damian Willemse, who will join the squad in Japan on Thursday.

Willemse has only been capped five times by the Boks, all of which came in 2018.

“Damian would have been more involved with us this year but he was injured earlier this year, but he is familiar with our systems and should have no problem slotting in,” said Rassie Erasmus, South Africa’s director of rugby.

Erasmus said his versatility would be a major plus point for the side.

“He has the ability to play in a number of positions in the back division, while other players can cover Jesse’s No 13 jersey”, he said.

The news comes as the Boks prepare for a crunch match against Italy this week and Erasmus feels Kriel will be a big miss.

“I feel for Jesse. He has been in the match-day 23 for almost every match since I took over and is a model professional. He was a key member of the squad.”

Willemse is the second replacement in the Springbok squad; prop Thomas du Toit had previously replaced Trevor Nyakane.

South Africa play Italy at 11:45 am on Friday.