Willemse joins Am on injured list

Springboks ramp up preparations for Tests against Wales and Ireland

22 May 2024 - 14:00
By Liam Del Carme
Damian Willemse of the Stormers is tackled by Ulster players during their United Rugby Championship match in March.
Image: Grant Pitcher (Gallo Images) Damian Willemse of the Stormers is tackled by Ulster players during their United Rugby Championship match in March.

Utility back Damian Willemse has joined centre Lukhanyo Am on the list of doubtful starters for the Springboks' crunch Test series against Ireland in July.

Willemse will undergo finger surgery that will leave his availability in touch-and-go territory ahead of the much anticipated rumble against Ireland.

Am has sustained a sternoclavicular joint and suffered a rib fracture, but has been given an outside chance of recovering in time.

Sharks scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse is also injured and looks even more unlikely to be restored to fitness against the team ranked second in the world.

Willemse and Am's prognoses come against the backdrop of the Springboks' second in-person alignment camp, which started in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The Boks are being knocked into shape ahead of their opening Test of the season against Wales in London on June 22.

Springbok head coach Rassie Erasmus has assembled a group of 38 players for the two-day camp.

The first alignment camp was hosted in March, with a series of online alignment sessions with selected locally based and overseas players replacing the initial plan of an in-person camp early in May due to most players being involved in the northern hemisphere at the time.

Players from the Sharks, who are playing in the EPCR Challenge Cup final against Gloucester on Friday, have been excused from this week’s camp.

The camp follows a two-day coaches’ strategic session hosted last weekend where the building blocks were put in place for the camp.

We are moving into a new cycle as a group as our first Test is only a few weeks away, so it is vital we start diving deeper into our on-field planning,” Erasmus said in a South African Rugby statement.

In the first two camps we presented our wider plans to the players and introduced the new ideas presented by all the coaches and specially the new additions to the coaching team in Tony Brown, Jerry Flannery and Jaco Peyer, so we are in a good position to start zooming into different areas of the game in more detail.

“With our first Test around the corner, it will be great to have everyone together and ensure the coaches and players are 100% aligned in terms of what we want to achieve and how we plan to approach the season,” said the head coach.

Erasmus noted the Boks will be facing a challenging year with the team set for battle in two Tests against Ireland and the All Blacks on South African soil and two away clashes against Australia.

“The Test against Wales falls outside the international window, and then we play two Tests against Ireland, the second-ranked team in the world, and our first Test against Portugal in the incoming series.

We then move on to the Rugby Championship which kicks off with back-to-back away Tests against Australia, followed by two Tests against New Zealand in South Africa, and two matches against Argentina, away and at home.

Our outgoing tour will also serve as a thorough test, with matches against Scotland, England and Wales lined up — so the sooner we are aligned as a group, the better.”

Springbok fixtures:

  • June 22: SA vs Wales (Twickenham, London)
  • July 6: SA vs Ireland (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
  • July 13: SA vs Ireland (Kings Park, Durban)
  • July 20: SA vs Portugal (Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein)
  • August 10: Australia vs SA (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)
  • August 17: Australia vs SA (Optus Stadium, Perth)
  • August 31: SA vs New Zealand (Ellis Park, Johannesburg)
  • September 7: SA v New Zealand (Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town)
  • September 21: Argentina v SA (Estadio Unico Madre Ciudades, Santiago)
  • September 28: SA v Argentina (Mbombela Stadium, Mbombela)
  • November 10: Scotland vs SA (Murrayfield, Edinburgh)
  • November 16: England vs SA (Twickenham, London)
  • November 23: Wales vs SA (Principality Stadium, Cardiff)