Jacques Nienaber is sweating the fitness of Springbok playmaker Damian Willemse at the start of a short week leading up to the potential Rugby Championship title decider against Argentina in Durban.
Willemse was substituted in the 64th minute following a heavy tackle during the 36-20 win for the Boks over Los Pumas in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
The Bok flyhalf lay dazed on the turf with medics in attendance before rising to his feet and making his way off the field.
His head knock is a worry for the world champions, with quality back-up flyhalves in short supply and veteran Frans Steyn the only recognised cover in the current camp.
Speaking after the final whistle on Saturday, Nienaber was uncertain about the extent of Willemse’s injury.
“I have yet to speak to the medical staff about Damian’s injury,” the Bok coach told media.
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“We will assess the injuries in the next two days and then make decisions on who or whether we have to bring in players next week. We only arrive in South Africa in the early hours of Monday morning, so it will be a short week for us but both teams will be in the same situation, so we will be on a level playing field.”
Meanwhile, Nienaber praised the Boks’ fighting spirit to grind their way to victory at Estadio Libertadores De América, which allowed them to match the All Blacks on 14 log points going into the final round clash set for Kings Park on Saturday.
The Springboks held a comfortable 22-6 half-time lead and weathered a strong fightback from the hosts before scoring two tries in the last six minutes to seal the bonus point, which kept them in the title race going into next week’s tournament finale against Los Pumas in Durban.
“This was a semi-final for us, and it was a game of two halves,” he added. “In the first half we played well and didn’t lie down and we were very clinical, and then they fought back and we conceded penalties. Credit to Argentina.
“I think both teams got penalties on all sides, but I think our discipline could’ve been better. When you play a dangerous team like Argentina, you don’t want to concede penalties for being offsides.
“But I must take my hat off to the players for staying so calm and focused and keeping their heads toward the end of the game to pull it through.”
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Photo: Daniel Jayo/Getty Images