Nienaber: Willemse a ‘natural choice’ at 10

Jacques Nienaber has backed Damian Willemse to shine at flyhalf for the Springboks in the clash with the Wallabies in Sydney on Saturday.

In one of eight changes to the starting lineup, Willemse will shift from fullback to flyhalf after Handre Pollard and Elton Jantjies were both ruled out with injuries.

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Canan Moodie will make his Test debut on the right wing, while Jesse Kriel starts at outside centre and Deon Fourie will provide backup at hooker.

“We selected a team we thought would be best for this match given that we have several players out with injuries and with an eye on how we want to play,” said Nienaber.

“Handre, Lukhanyo, Elton and Pieter-Steph are all carrying injuries which add to a list that includes Cheslin Kolbe and Sbu Nkosi, while Kurt-Lee Arendse is also out serving a suspension, and this has forced our hand to make a few changes in some positions.

“With both flyhalves injured, Damian was the natural choice at No 10 where he has slotted in for us a lot. He is also becoming a settled player in our team with over 20 Test caps to his name.

“This will also be a great test for Canan, who was a standout player for the Vodacom Bulls this season in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship. He’s a very talented player, who will enjoy this opportunity.”

Nienaber added: “Cobus at his best is world class and having seen what he offers us at training we think he’s close to that form. With him, Warrick and Frans Steyn on the bench we have sufficient cover among the backs.”

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Commenting on the changes among the forwards Nienaber said: “With Bongi [Mbonambi] and Trevor injured in the last few weeks we were in a position where we could test other combinations and we got some good answers in that regard.

“This weekend we opted to make a few switches with Ox and Trevor playing off the bench along with Deon Fourie. With Bongi and Malcolm both settled with over 50 Test caps each, it was always our plan to give Joseph [Dweba] and Deon a chance at hooker, and this week Deon gets a run.”

Zoning in on the match itself, Nienaber said: “We had a thorough review of our performance against Australia last week, and the most disappointing aspect is that we were dominant in several areas of the game, but we struggled to show that on the scoreboard.

“This week is a final for us to stay in the competition and we are expecting Australia to be just as desperate, but so are we.

“We let ourselves down in the last two games and we are determined to rectify that this week and change our fortunes in Australia. We’ll prepare as well as possible this week to stay in the hunt for the title,” he added.

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Photo: Photo: Twitter/@Stormers

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