Damian Willemse to replace Jesse Kriel in Springboks RWC squad

South Africa's Damian Willemse during the Autumn International at The Principality Stadium, Cardiff (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)
South Africa’s Damian Willemse during the Autumn International at The Principality Stadium, Cardiff (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

21-year-old utility back Damian Willemse has been called up to the Springboks squad to replace centre Jesse Kriel who was ruled out of the 2019 Rugby World Cup with a hamstring injury.

Kriel, 25, who suffered the injury during the defeat to world champions New Zealand, will return to South Africa.

The South African Rugby Union said that although Kriel’s condition had improved it was not enough to put him in contention to feature in either of the remaining two pool games.

Willemse will link up with the rest of the Springboks squad in Japan on Thursday.

South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said Willemse should have no problem slotting in with the rest of the team.

“He has the ability to play in a number of positions in the back division, while other players can cover Jesse’s No 13 jersey,” Erasmus said.

Willemse, who is on loan at European champions Saracens, won all of his five caps in 2018.

He becomes the second replacement to be drafted to South Africa’s Rugby World Cup squad after Thomas du Toit replaced Trevor Nyakane.

Two-time champions South Africa face Italy at Shizuoka Stadium on Friday in a must-win encounter in Pool B.