Springboks Damian Willemse. Photo: Archives

Springboks superstar Damian Willemse. Photo: Archives

Springboks coach credited for ‘diverse, inclusive’ team

Flyhalf Damian Willemse has thanked Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber for the work he has done around inclusivity and diversity.

Springboks Damian Willemse. Photo: Archives

Springboks superstar Damian Willemse. Photo: Archives

Willemese has enjoyed an unforgettable year at both domestic and international level, with the 24-year-old particularly producing a series of standout performances during a Test season in which he featured in 12 Springboks matches.

What’s been very clear this season is that Willemse also has the full backing of the coaching staff, having started in 11 matches, only shifting to the bench for the second Test against Wales when a completely experimental starting lineup was thrown into action.

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In no uncertain terms, the talented utility back has repaid this faith, and on current form, he is surely ‘undroppable’.

Willemse produced another memorable performance in this past weekend’s season-ending Test against England, and at the conclusion of the end-of-year tour, he has shared an incredible message highlighting the influence of Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber.

It’s fair to say that Nienaber has not always received due credit as he is the sort of quietly-spoken character who largely flys under the radar, but he clearly has the utmost respect from the Springboks players.

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Notably, Nienaber and Willemse shared a warm embrace after the game against England, and the flyhalf has now shared how much the coach means to him.

“Thank you boss, for all you that you do for me and our team,” Willemse wrote. “You are an incredible man and coach, and it was a privilege to play for you this year. You are a true legend and pioneer for all the work you have done to make our team more diverse and inclusive.

“Smart, tough, and loyal are a few words to describe your style. I will always remember our conversations before training this autumn and how you kept backing me. We all benefited from your leadership and guidance and I’m so proud of what we accomplished in 2022.”

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Nienaber was delighted with the way some of the young players rose to the occasion in the final Test of the year against England.

“With this match being outside of the international Test window there were a whole lot of players who were not available for selection, but we have a lot of players knocking on the door and it was great to give those guys an opportunity tonight.

“It’s always good to give those players a chance under such pressure in front of a packed Twickenham, which can be pretty hostile, and they stood up today.”

SOUTH AFRICA ARE ONE OF THE FAVOURITES FOR THE WORLD CUP

Leading South Africa bookmakers Hollywoodbets now have the Springboks on offer at a very generous 5/1 (along with Ireland) to lift the Webb Ellis Cup in France next year.

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Hosts France are the tournament’s favourites at 5/2, followed by the All Blacks at 28/10.

England at 57/10 are the only other realistic potential winners.

Next year’s Rugby World Cup will run from 8 September to 28 October.