The options if Willemse is ruled out
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: South African coach Jacques Nienaber may be faced with a tough pivotal poser in the build-up to the decisive final round of the Rugby Championship.
The Springboks, who share top spot on the standings with New Zealand, host Los Pumas in Durban.
By the time they kick off at 17.00 South African time (12.00 Buenos Aires time), they will know what they have to do to claim the title.
However, before that Nienaber will have a few tough decisions to make.
He will be sweating over the fitness of utility back Damian Willemse, who was replaced by Frans Steyn in the 65th minute of the 36-20 win over Argentina in Buenos Aires at the weekend.
Willemse took a heavy blow to the head in a tackle attempt and while he walked off the field, failed to return after his head injury assessment.
Nienaber said he will get an ‘update’ on the injury status of the entire team before making a call.
A squad, to prepare for the decisive Round Six encounter with Los Pumas in Durban this coming weekend, will be named on Monday.
However, the coach could face a flyhalf conundrum.
Springbok first-choice Handre Pollard has been sidelined with a knee injury, while back-up Elton Jantjies has departed the squad in the wake of reports of an extra-marital affair.
This left Willemse, a utility, as the starting No.10 for the Boks.
Willemse was selected at flyhalf during the 24-8 win over the Wallabies in Round Four and also started against Los Pumas this past weekend.
Steyn, his replacement in Buenos Aires, is also a utility.
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Should Willemse be unavailable for the Durban decider, the options inside the squad remain limited – Steyn, Francois de Klerk and as a last resort Willie le Roux.
Steyn, 36, appears to be the most obvious choice.
However, Nienaber may decide to draft in someone from outside the squad.
The Springboks management has also yet to find a long-term solution for their flyhalf concerns with the World Cup gradually approaching.
One name that always pops up when it comes to talking of the Springboks flyhalf options is Stormers No.10 Manie Libbok.
The 25-year-old Libbok was incredible during the United Rugby Championship season, guiding the Stormers to the title.
He also ended the season at the top of the points-scoring chart with 171.
Chris Smith is another contender.
The Bulls flyhalf is a point-scoring machine and proved it again at the weekend during his team’s 31-15 URC Round One win over the Lions.
The 28-year-old is not one to be flashy, but he does the basic right and is a very accurate goal-kicker – a major weapon that could come in handy for the Boks.
Jordan Hendrikse has also been touted as one for the future. The Lions No.10 still has a lot of work ahead of him however so far he has been proving himself at the franchise level.
Johan Goosen, who is currently busy with his rehabilitation from a knee injury, is the more experienced and fancied option.
The 30-year-old will eye a spot in the Boks’ year-end tour and will want to mark it as his return to the international set-up.