The Junior Springboks were dealt a massive blow to their title aspirations as influential flyhalf Damian Willemse was ruled out of the remainder of the World Rugby Under-20 Championships due to injury.
Western Province flyhalf David Coetzer and Sharks No 8 Phendulani Buthelezi will join the Junior Springboks in France on Tuesday, as injury replacements for Damian Willemse and Muller du Plessis respectively.
Willemse suffered a knee injury in the team’s match against Ireland on Sunday, which will sideline him for four to six weeks.
Du Plessis injured a gluteal muscle in the same match, and is expected to be out for between two and four weeks.
Buthelezi and Coetzer both have Junior Springbok experience having featured in the team’s warm-up matches, with Buthelezi taking to the field in all three matches on the UK tour and against Georgia in Stellenbosch, while Coetzer played against Wales and England on tour.
With sufficient cover among the backs, as centre Rikus Pretorius and winger Sihle Njezula will return to action in the coming games, the coach opted to call up a back and forward as replacements.
“It is never good when players suffer injuries,” said Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux.
“In Damian’s case particularly, if we really had to, we could probably have strapped him and played him in one of the playoff games. But if one looks at the bigger picture, it is better for him as a player and for South African rugby that he takes a break and does proper recovery so that he can be 100 percent ready to play again.
“He has had a very high workload this year at a high intensity, and although his injury is a big loss, it is better that he recovers properly so that he can return to action soon.”