Rassie surprised by the selection of Willemse at centre for Currie Cup final

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus won’t pick Damian Willemse at inside centre between now and the Rugby World Cup in 2019.

The 20-year old is starting in the No 12 jersey for Western Province in Saturday’s Currie Cup final against the Sharks at Newlands‚ which is a surprise decision by provincial coach John Dobson.

Willemse has played at fullback and flyhalf at provincial and Test level but never started a senior game in the midfield.

Erasmus didn’t say it was a bad decision but he made it clear it was not a plan he has for the talented youngster.

“You can look at it two ways and say it’s clever because guys such as Dan Carter did it and it helped his career‚” Erasmus said at his final briefing before leaving for the November tour.

“Or you can say the guy is being buggered around and this will make him a jack of all trades.

“But I think you could see it as developing his all round game by phasing him into different positions where he can see how the opposition plays and thinks.

“For Damian to play 12 will be an experience when you consider he won the 2017 Currie Cup at fullback. On balance I don’t think it is messing with his future but I won’t pick him at 12 between now and RWC 2019 because we have depth at inside centre at the moment.”

The Boks play against England‚ France‚ Scotland and Wales on a tour‚ which constitutes 50% of their remaining Tests until RWC 2019.

Erasmus again stressed that because of the tight time frame he will have to take some risks in terms of selections.

He confirmed that veteran fullback Gio Aplon would be part of the tour with Willie le Roux ruled out of the England Test because it falls outside of the official Test window.

Aplon‚ 36‚ last played for the Boks against England in 2012 and his selection can only be seen as a stop-gap measure.

Willemse is likely to start at fullback against England‚ but Aplon‚ after four years at French club Grenoble will offer some experience to the callow squad.

Erasmus also all but confirmed that WP wing Sergeal Petersen would be in the squad as well.

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