Willemse’s versatility will be handy for Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber as he opted for a six-two split of forwards and backs on the bench, with a physical onslaught expected from the Welsh, with the DHL Stormers player able to cover fullback, centre and flyhalf.
“I think the last time we played in front of a full stadium at home was at Loftus Versfeld, but this will be my first start for the Springboks in front of fans,” said Willemse.
“Since I grew up, I’ve been watching the team play there, so it is going to be special. There is certainly a buzz in the air within the team and we are very excited for Saturday.”
Willemse was pleased to offer the Springboks selection options in a few positions and said it was something he has been working on consciously.
“I’ve been working on covering a few positions for a few years now and I’ve played multiple positions at the Stormers,” said Willemse.
“I have also been working on it at training, so I just want to go out there and give it my best by giving the forwards a good platform and to do what is expected of me. Hopefully it goes well, and the results go our way.”
Willemse spoke highly of veteran Springbok fullback Willie le Roux, who will start among the replacements, and said he has been helpful as he looks to grab his opportunity to start at fullback.
“Willie is a great player and I have a lot of respect for him,” said Willemse, who attended the same school as Le Roux, namely Paul Roos Gynmasium in Stellenbosch.
“He actually helped me at training today telling me what to communicate on the field. He is an incredible player and I have no doubt that if he takes the field, he will play a big part.”
When quizzed about Wales’ tactical kicking game, Willemse said they were preparing for everything the opposition have to offer on the day.
“Wales are good at tactical kicking, but they can also change their game plan,” he said. “So, we are expecting that, but we have to be ready for whatever they bring on the day.”
Bok loose forward Kwagga Smith, another player who Nienaber and his coaching team will bank on for his versatility in the loose trio, also expected a challenging test from Wales and said: “The Welsh team have good loose forwards and they are strong at poaching turnovers, so it is going to be a big battle at the breakdowns. It will be a good challenge for us to measure ourselves against them.”
Of the possibility of offering the team an option at wing as well if the need arises, Smith said he was ready for the test if he had to provide cover out wide.
“I’ve played a lot of Sevens rugby and I actually made my debut at wing, so if I have to switch to the wing it will be a last resort, but I will give everything and do whatever I can to support the team,” said Smith.