Bok Willemse excited about international season

SPRINGBOK Damian Willemse is excited about the upcoming international season. | BackpagePix

SPRINGBOK Damian Willemse is excited about the upcoming international season. | BackpagePix

Published Feb 24, 2024


DAMIAN Willemse is looking forward to working with one of the best attack coaches in international rugby, Tony Brown, ahead of the Springboks’ blockbuster season, which includes Tests against the second and third-ranked nations in the world.

The reigning world champions start the international season with a friendly Test at Twickenham against Wales (June 22), before double Tests against Ireland (July 6 and 13), and a once-off against Portugal on July 20.

Back-to-back Tests against the All Blacks are also on the menu later this year in the Rugby Championship.

Brown was recently unveiled as one of the Springboks’ new assistant coaches as they build towards the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia, where the Boks will look to claim a record third consecutive title.

This time around, Rassie Erasmus, just as he did in 2019, has roped in a few foreign coaches to assist him in preparing the squad to defend their world title. Brown (attack) is joined by former Irish forward Jerry Flanery (defence) in the South African set-up.

Willemse, a double World Cup winner under Erasmus and former coach Jacques Nienaber, said he was excited at the prospect of being coached by Brown.

“Coach Tony is respected and well-known around the world. He’s worked in Japan as well and achieved big success with the Highlanders (in Super Rugby). He brought improvement to the club and players who eventually made it to the New Zealand team,” said Willemse.

“From what I’ve seen, he looks like someone who knows his job, and he will bring a lot of exciting things to the Springboks. We will all welcome him, and look forward to working with him.

“I think it will be a really special year.”

Brown has done wonders as a coach at the Highlanders in Super Rugby and the Japanese national side during the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

The New Zealander is set to refine the skill and flair of players like Willemse, flyhalves Manie Libbok and Handre Pollard, wingers Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie, Cheslin Kolbeand Makazole Mapimpi, centres Lukhanyo Am, Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende, and fullback Willie le Roux.

The handful of new players called up to the alignment camp will also be eager to get a first taste of what Brown will bring to the attack at the camp in the first week of March.

Looking ahead to the international season, Willemse told Independent Newspapers: “Both those Tests against the Irish and the All Blacks will be big.

“But we have to put one foot in front of the other this year, and not look too far ahead in the future, especially towards the 2027 World Cup. We have to look at what is now and that is the Irish.

“I have been watching their Six Nations games, and you can see they are still in form. They are a very good team and they will be difficult to face. But during the alignment camp, we will ensure we put the right plans in place.

“Listen to the coaches about where they see new trends in the game. We want to make sure we are all aligned in terms of how the year will go.

“The first series will be the most important, and after this the focus shifts to the Rugby Championship.”