South Africa’s New-Look Squad Ready to Take on Romania: Damian Willemse at Fly-Half

South Africa’s New-Look Squad Ready to Take on Romania: Damian Willemse at Fly-Half

South Africa’s head coach, Jacques Nienaber, has orchestrated a significant reshuffle in his lineup as his team gears up to face Romania in Bordeaux this Sunday, following their victorious debut in Pool B against Scotland. With a whopping 14 changes, Nienaber is ushering in fresh talent and a strategic shake-up to maintain the team’s momentum.

The only player retaining his position in the starting XV is Damian Willemse, who, in a notable twist, has shifted from full-back to the pivotal role of fly-half. This move underscores Nienaber’s commitment to adaptability and showcases Willemse’s versatility within the squad.

In a move that has rugby enthusiasts buzzing, prop Vincent Koch is set to make his first test start since the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Despite amassing an impressive 28 consecutive appearances as a replacement, Koch now gets a chance to shine from the first whistle.

Adding to the intrigue, Grant Williams, typically a scrum-half, will take on the role of the right-wing. This demonstrates the coach’s willingness to experiment with player positions and tactics to keep South Africa at the top of their game.

Here’s a glance at South Africa’s revamped lineup for the Romania clash:

  1. Ox Nche
  2. Mbongeni Mbonambi (c)
  3. Vincent Koch
  4. Jean Kleyn
  5. Marvin Orie
  6. Marco van Staden
  7. Kwagga Smith
  8. Duane Vermeulen
  9. Cobus Reinach
  10. Damian Willemse
  11. Makazole Mapimpi
  12. Andre Esterhuizen
  13. Canan Moodie
  14. Grant Williams
  15. Willie Le Roux


  1. Deon Fourie
  2. Steven Kitshoff
  3. Trevor Nyakane
  4. RG Snyman
  5. Jasper Wiese
  6. Jaden Hendrikse
  7. Faf de Klerk
  8. Jesse Kriel

Damian Willemse’s standout performance in the previous match earned him a spot as the team’s fly-half, showcasing his adaptability and value to the squad. Meanwhile, Makazole Mapimpi, a seasoned winger, is set to make his 39th test start in the position, placing him in a tie for fifth place on the list of players with the most starts on the wing, alongside Pieter Rossouw.

Vincent Koch’s return to the starting lineup after a lengthy bench stint since the 2019 Rugby World Cup adds a layer of intrigue to the pack. He will undoubtedly be eager to make his presence felt.

In a notable pairing, Cobus Reinach and Damian Willemse will take on the roles of the half-back combination for the first time at this level. Canan Moodie, an emerging talent, will play at outside-center, only his second appearance in this position in his test career.

As South Africa looks forward to the Rugby World Cup, the tournament debuts of Moodie, Andre Esterhuizen, and Marvin Orie promise to be key developments to watch. Orie will partner with Jean Kleyn in the absence of Eben Etzebeth in the second row.

Deon Fourie’s versatility comes into play as he provides cover for Bongi Mbonambi at hooker. If called upon, he and Jaden Hendrikse, fellow replacement, will make their Rugby World Cup debuts. Notably, Fourie made history as the oldest test debutant in Springbok history at nearly 36 years old in a match against Wales in July 2022.

As South Africa’s squad undergoes a transformation, fans are eagerly awaiting the team’s performance against Romania, where the synergy of these new faces and positional changes will be put to the test.

Mark Z

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