The Boks departed from Sydney via Auckland for Buenos Aires on Sunday morning (Australian time) for their fifth-round Castle Lager Rugby Championship clash against the Pumas at Estadio José Amalfitani on Saturday, 17 September.
With the log-jam at the top of the standings – New Zealand lead with 10 points after four rounds, followed by the Boks, Wallabies and Pumas, all one nine points – victory in Buenos Aires is almost non-negotiable for South Africa if they are to keep their hopes alive of winning the title.
Damian Willemse, who was named Man of the Match in Sydney for his performance at flyhalf, is on his second assignment in Argentina with the Springboks. He made his Test debut against the Pumas in Durban in 2018 and again played off the bench a week later, when the South Africans came up short in Mendoza, losing by 19-32.
However, the 24-year-old utility back was delighted with the Boks’ strong performance at the Allianz Stadium, and said afterwards it wasn’t too tough to make the switch from fullback, where he has started five of the six Tests this year, to flyhalf – the first time he wore the Boks’ No 10-jersey.
“It was not that tough slotting in at flyhalf, it’s just a bit of a different role,” said Willemse, who started at fullback in the first Test against the Pumas in Nelson Mandela Bay last year, which the Boks won by 32-12.
“I must give credit to Elton (Jantjies) and the coaches who helped me, I am very grateful to them. It was a huge honour to start at flyhalf, and I have to give credit to the players around me, especially the forwards who created a good platform for the backs and the coaches that believed in me to play in that position.”
Willemse admitted that the team let themselves down in Adelaide a little over a week ago when they went down by 25-17 in the first Test against the Wallabies, and he said they were determined to improve on that performance in Sydney.
“Last week we were very disappointed with the result – we left a lot of opportunities out there, and this week we tried to rectify that,” he said.
“I think we are getting out balance right. The way we suffocated Australia was good and we did well with territory, possession and when we had the ball in hand. Willie (le Roux) was great with his left foot kicks and Jaden (Hendrikse) was outstanding with his tactical kicking.”
The 19-year-old Canan Moodie, who touched down in Argentina for the first time with the Boks, enjoyed a fine Test debut, scoring a stunning try in which he gathered the ball from a kick and dashed to the tryline.
Moodie was humbled by the experienced of representing South Africa: “It was very special pulling on the jersey, and that was special enough in itself. But scoring a try on debut certainly a cherry on top.
“I’m just glad I could contribute to the team, as I just wanted to be at my best. When I was swarmed by the bench (after scoring the try) it was very special.
“I called my family after the game and they were very excited for me, and I’d like to thank everyone who supported me.”