Major blow for Springboks as Willemse is ruled out of final Pumas Test

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Damian Willemse. (Photo by JUAN MABROMATA / AFP)
Damian Willemse. (Photo by JUAN MABROMATA / AFP)
  • Springbok flyhalf Damian Willemse has been ruled out of Saturday's Test against Argentina in Durban due to concussion.
  • The Boks have not called up a new flyhalf, but wingers Sbu Nkosi and Kurt-Lee Arendse are back in the fray.
  • Four other squad members - Joseph Dweba, Warrick Gelant, Elrigh Louw and Salmaan Moerat - have been released to their franchises.

The Springboks received a major blow ahead of Saturday's final Rugby Championship Test against Argentina in Durban after flyhalf Damian Willemse was ruled out with concussion.

Springbok management confirmed on Monday that Willemse will return to his franchise, the Stormers, to follow the prescribed return to play protocols. He was injured in last Saturday's 36-20 win over the Pumas in Buenos Aires.

Willemse's absence leaves the Boks short at flyhalf, with Frans Steyn the only recognised No 10 left in the squad. Handre Pollard is out injured and Elton Jantjies is also not available after being released from the squad following rumours of an affair with team dietician Zeenat Simjee. 

The Boks did not call-up a new flyhalf on Monday, but did recall wingers Sbu Nkosi and Kurt-Lee Arendse.

Nkosi has recovered from the ankle injury that ruled him out of Test action in 2022, while Arendse is back after serving a four-game suspension for a dangerous tackle in South Africa's 26-10 win over New Zealand at Mbombela Stadium.

Elsewhere, four players - Joseph Dweba (hooker), Warrick Gelant (utility back), Elrigh Louw (loose forward) and Salmaan Moerat (lock) - have been released to their respective franchises to allow them to get valuable game time ahead of South Africa's year-end European tour.

"We have been pretty unlucky on wing in the last few months in terms of injuries, which has forced our hand at giving players such as Kurt-Lee and Canan (Moodie) a chance at international level, and we are pleased with the depth we are now building as we get closer toward the Rugby World Cup next year," said Bok coach Jacques Nienaber.

"Kurt-Lee had a great debut and played very well against the All Blacks, but he was unfortunately banned, and we are delighted to have him back as he's a very talented player.

"Sbu has been in our system for several years now and he has recovered from injury, so we are excited to welcome him back. He has shown his class in several big matches, and he brings experience, so he will undoubtedly add great value to the squad.

"This also allows us an opportunity to take stock of the depth we have at wing as we are now a year out from the Rugby World Cup in France."

The bonus-point win in Buenos Aires put the Boks level on points with New Zealand (14), with the All Blacks only at No 1 because of a superior points difference of 13.

If the All Blacks fail to claim a bonus-point victory in their game against the Wallabies at Eden Park, then a five-point win for the Boks against the Pumas at Kings Park would secure the Rugby Championship.

However, a relatively comfortable win for the All Blacks - who haven't lost to the Wallabies at Eden Park since 1986 - would require South Africa to thump Argentina with a large score.

Regarding his decision to send players back to their franchises, the Bok mentor commented: "This year alone we have given close to 50 players an opportunity to play, so we have certainly ticked the box of creating squad depth, which is one of our key pillars for the team.

"We are, however, going into our last match of the Rugby Championship and we think it would be more beneficial for these players to return to their clubs and provinces to gain valuable game time.

"We have a long and challenging year-end tour ahead, which will involve an expanded squad, and we need the players to be match fit so we can hit the ground running when depart for the tour."

The Bok team will be named on Tuesday.


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