The DHL Stormers have explained why Damian Willemse was taken on the three-game Vodacom United Rugby Championship tour, while their other Boks stayed in Cape Town.
Willemse is among the five Springboks who are part of the Stormers squad to tour Italy and the UK, including Herschel Jantjies, Marvin Orie, Salmaan Moerat and Evan Roos.
The Stormers have, however, left veteran props Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe, as well as hooker Joseph Dweba and flank Deon Fourie at home.
“The guys that stayed behind are guys who have played quite a lot of rugby for the Springboks,” defence coach Norman Laker explained from Parma.
“They left after the [URC] final, on that Sunday, played three Test matches against Wales, and then the [Rugby] Championship.
“I think they had about two days off in between … they are human beings and need rest, like the rest of us. So, that was the thinking behind it – to make sure that we have the freshest players possible for us in the home part of the season, which is quite important for player safety and so on.
“That was his [Willemse’s] choice, that he would like to play. The strain, if you are talking about the props, Steven and Frans, they have been playing 60-odd minutes in every game in the front row, stopping 10 mauls, maul 10 times, scrum 12-15 times per game – it’s quite a lot.
“Both of those players are 30-plus, whereas Damian is 24 years old. He asked to be part of the tour and he wants some rugby. That’s the difference between the three guys.”
Laker said that the tour could be an important one for the younger members of the squad, like Junior Springboks Suleiman Hartzenberg and Sacha Mngomezulu.
“It’s a massive opportunity for them to come into the squad, especially for a guy like Suleiman, who had two starts in the past two weeks.
“He can learn from the experience of being here and especially being around some of the older guys, being in the same squad as a guy like Brok Harris, who has played in Europe for seven years and played over 100 games for the Stormers.
“So, I think they can learn a lot from the next three weeks.”
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