Rassie hints at Willemse call-up

Damian Willemse (Gallo)
Damian Willemse (Gallo)

Cape Town - Elton Jantjies' struggles at Newlands on Saturday confirmed that Handre Pollard is South Africa's first-choice flyhalf by some distance, but coach Rassie Erasmus is still searching for more depth in the position as preparations for the 2019 World Cup continue. 

And, listening to him speak after Saturday's 25-10 loss to England, it seems like Erasmus will be calling up 20-year-old Stormers playmaker Damian Willemse to play some part in this year's Rugby Championship.

Willemse has been largely impressive in Super Rugby so far this season, but he is currently sidelined with a knee injury that he picked up while on Junior Bok duty at the World Championship earlier this month. 

It is not expected to be a long-term injury, though, and while Willemse may not play in the Stormers' last two matches of Super Rugby this year, he should be good to go by the time the Rugby Championship kicks off on August 18. 

Erasmus has been vocal on the need to try different players and combinations in the build-up to the World Cup, and he has already handed out 16 Springbok debuts in his four Tests in charge. 

The experimentation continued on Saturday where Jantjies was backed in the wet while the likes of Warrick Gelant, Andre Esterhuizen and Chiliboy Ralepelle were also given starts. 

While the conditions made life difficult for everyone, Jantjies struggled more than most and was yanked off before the hour mark. 

Now, Erasmus seems keen to try somebody else. 

At his post-match press conference, Erasmus mentioned Willemse twice, both times unprompted. 

"A guy like Damian Willemse might come into the mix now," Erasmus said when asked about how much experimentation Bok fans could expect in the Rugby Championship.

"Eben (Etzebeth) might be ready, Malcom (Marx) might be ready, Warren Whiteley might be ready.

"We were actually experimenting today with the Championship in mind, with all respect to England and the series.

"With a few guys not being available in the Rugby Championship, like Duane (Vermeulen) and a few other guys, we’re going to rotate a little bit."

Another option at flyhalf is Sharks pivot Robert du Preez, who had a horrible debut against Wales in Washington when his double charge-down cost the Boks late. 

Pat Lambie, meanwhile, is also out injured with a serious knee problem. 

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