October 1, 2019 / 10:41 AM / 13 days ago

Springboks call on Willemse to replace Kriel in World Cup squad

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Rugby Championship - South Africa v Australia - Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa - July 20, 2019 South Africa's Jesse Kriel is tackled REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

SHIZUOKA, Japan (Reuters) - South Africa have called up versatile back Damian Willemse to replace injured centre Jesse Kriel in their Rugby World Cup squad, officials confirmed on Tuesday.

Kriel injured his hamstring in the 23-13 loss to New Zealand on Sept. 21 and will not recover in time to feature in the Springboks’ remaining two Pool B games.

Willemse, 21, has been on loan at English club Saracens from the Stormers, but will now link up with the squad on Thursday.

He predominantly plays at fly-half or full-back, though he did feature at centre for the Junior Springboks at the under-20 World Cup.

“Damian would have been more involved with us this year but for injury, but he is familiar with our systems and should have no problem slotting in,” Bok coach Rassie Erasmus said.

“He has the ability to play in a number of positions in the back division, while other players can cover Jesse’s number 13 jersey.

“I feel for Jesse. He has been in the match-day 23 for almost every match since I took over and is a model professional. He was a key member of the squad.”

Willemse, who has five test caps, all earned in 2018, is the second replacement called up by the Boks during the tournament after prop Thomas du Toit replaced Trevor Nyakane, who returned home with a calf problem.

The Boks take on Italy in a must-win fixture at the Shizuoka Stadium on Friday, before a meeting with minnows Canada in Kobe on Oct. 8.

Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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