Junior Springboks lose Willemse, call up Coetzer and Buthelezi

Phendulani Buthelezi will join David Coetzer as replacements for the Junior Springboks at the World Rugby U20 Championship Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Following the injuries to Damian Willemse and Muller du Plessis at the ongoing World Rugby U20 Championship, the Junior Springboks have called up David Coetzer and Phendulani Buthelezi as replacements.

Though both of Willemse and Du Plessis are backline players, coach Chean Roux has decided that Western Province flyhalf Coetzer is sufficient cover there while Sharks No 8 Phendulani Buthelezi will add another dimension to his forward options in France.

"It is never good when players suffer injuries," said Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux in the wake of Willemse and Du Plessis returns to South Africa.

"In Damian's case [the star flyhalf suffered a knee injury in the team's World Rugby U20 Championship match against Ireland on Sunday] particularly, if we really had to, we could probably have strapped him and played him in one of the playoff games. But if one looks at the bigger picture, it is better for him as a player and for South African rugby that he takes a break and does proper recovery so that he can be 100% ready to play again.

"He has had a very high workload this year at a high intensity, and although his injury is a big loss, it is better that he recovers properly so that he can return to action soon."

Willemse's knee injury should sideline him for four to six weeks, and as a result rule him out of the Stormers' two remaining Super Rugby fixtures. On the other hand, Du Plessis only injured a gluteal muscle in the same match, so can still stake a claim for the Springbok Sevens' Rugby World Cup Sevens squad as his absence is slated for between two and four weeks.

While it's not ideal for Roux to lose two of his starting XV, Buthelezi and Coetzer at least have Junior Springbok experience having featured in the team's warm-up matches. In fact, Buthelezi was arguably surprise final squad omission have played in all three matches on the pre-tournament UK tour and against Georgia in Stellenbosch. Coetzer, meanwhile, played against Wales and England on tour.

Roux reaffirmed his faith in Coetzer and Buthelezi's selection: "It is certainly a positive to gain players like David and Phendulani. They have been in SA Rugby's Elite Player Development system for a while now, and they were with us on the UK tour, so they know exactly what to expect from us and they will slot in with ease."

The duo's familiarity to the Junior Springboks environment will be key if they are to be considered for the team's final group match in Narbonne against hosts France (Thursday, 21:00 CAT), which has semifinal implications.