Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus on Thursday continued his fast-tracking of two Junior Springbok stars, Damian Willemse and Embrose Papier, into international rugby by including them on the bench for Saturday’s Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Durban.
It’s no coincidence that the two raw but gifted rookies have been highlighted – they play at fullback and scrumhalf respectively, two positions where national depth is a problem.
This is what Erasmus expects of them on the weekend.
It will probably depend on how the game goes but we’d like to see him at fullback, just to know what we have in that position building towards next year’s World Cup. He was the guy that played in the No 15 jersey when Western Province won the Currie Cup last year and has played enough in that position in pressure games to handle this.
The Rugby Championship is obviously a different beast. I’m not quite sure when I might introduce him. It might be with us in a comfortable position or at a moment when we are under pressure. He might come in at 12 or even at 10 with Handre (Pollard) moving to 12. It’s nice to have a versatile player in the mould of a Frans Steyn like Damian.
He’s one of the younger players around who can already stand up to the physical challenges of Test rugby. He can tackle, step and kick. It’s going to be about how he handles the pressure and expectations.
He’s the type of guy we simply have to give as much game-time as possible in Test matches. It will build his confidence and increase his experience.
We feel this game, at home, against a good Argentinian side is a good fit for him. If he can pass this Test – and because we clearly rate his ability – we can more easily and immediately gauge whether he might actually be up for an even steeper test against the Wallabies and All Blacks overseas.