Willemse given rare start for Wales test

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South Africa full-back Damian Willemse has been handed a rare start as one of four changes to the match-day squad for the autumn international series match against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

Willemse, an exciting utility player who can feature almost anywhere in the backline, has been brought into the side that beat New Zealand last month in place of the rested Willie le Roux, and will add to his 14 Springbok caps.

Jesse Kriel replaces winger Sbu Nkosi, who had his journey to Europe from South Africa delayed by passport and visa issues, while Herschel Jantjies is at scrum-half with Faf de Klerk unavailable through injury.

“We selected this squad with an eye on maintaining consistency in selection from the Rugby Championship, but at the same time giving players who have been knocking on the door for a while now an opportunity to play,” Bok coach Jacques Nienaber said.

“Damian and Herschel have featured off the bench a fair bit and this is a fantastic opportunity to give them a chance to start as we look to build our squad depth with an eye on the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

“Jesse has also been training hard; he is very experienced and he brings the physicality that will be necessary against Wales.”

South Africa will feature most of the squad that won the British & Irish Lions series earlier this year, and Nienaber is expecting a bruising forward battle.

“Wales are a tough side to beat and our track record over here in the last few years is evidence of that,” he said, with the Boks winless in Cardiff since 2013.

“They have a formidable pack of forwards and some equally experienced and high-calibre backline players, several of whom played for the British & Irish Lions.

“To add to this they will play in cool and possibly wet conditions that they are well suited to, so we know what we are in for.”

Starting XV

Damian Willemse, Jesse Kriel, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Herschel Jantjies, Duane Vermeulen, Kwagga Smith, Siya Kolisi (captain), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche.

Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Jasper Wiese, Cobus Reinach, Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn.