Jacques Nienaber: Springbok coach ‘looking forward’ to seeing new combinations

·3-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber is “looking forward” to seeing the combination between fly-half Damian Willemse and full-back Willie le Roux as the injury-ravaged side look to bounce back from a poor loss to Australia last weekend.

Fly-halves Handre Pollard and Elton Jantjies both succumbed to injury in the 25-17 defeat to the Wallabies at the Adelaide Oval, meaning that versatile star Willemse is required to step into the fly-half role – the position where he started his professional career with the Stormers.

Willemse – Le Roux axis

Willemse impressed when shifted to pivot for the second half of the first Test against Wales as the 24-year-old orchestrated a stunning comeback for the Springboks in tandem with an energetic Le Roux.

“Unfortunately, we lost two fly-halves in one game,” Nienaber said.

“It is unfortunate for the two guys that got injured, but it is fortunate for Damian. He has played for us at fly-half this year in the first Welsh Test in Pretoria – he played there in the second half.

“We are looking forward to seeing him in that position again, and the combination between him and Willie (le Roux).”

Willemse’s shift to playmaker was only one of several changes as the Stormers star pairs with scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse, who has taken well to the Test scene in 2022.

Hendrikse is focused on building a solid combination with Willemse in the build-up to the Test, as both players will be key decision makers on Saturday.

“With me and (Willemse), it is just building a good relationship and understanding each other during the week,” Hendrikse said.

“It is just sitting around each other and speaking about rugby, just getting to know each other. That is the main thing between me and him.

“We need to be on the same page and know what we have to do in each situation.”

Rolling the dice on the bench

Faf de Klerk drops out of the matchday 23 following a controversial yellow card after his hand made contact with Wallaby Nic White’s face last weekend, with Montpellier star Cobus Reinach starting from the bench.

Reinach has only recently recovered from an injury, and Nienaber has decided to roll the dice on a player who is not match fit yet again after his decision to field an undercooked Duane Vermeulen backfired against the All Blacks at Ellis Park.

“We have some quality nines with us in the squad … I think a lot of countries have had the same issue as we had, that there is no club rugby at the moment,” Nienaber said.

“A lot of the national teams currently in the Rugby Championship, who suffer injuries or get players back from injury, they wouldn’t have played a lot of rugby.

“Cobus has been brilliant with us, and we introduced him into training. I would like to see him bring his X-factor – he has a lot of it when he comes on.”

READ MORE: South Africa: Damian Willemse starts at 10, Canan Moodie to make debut for Springboks

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