The 23-year-old Willemse was named as one of only two backline replacements in the Springbok matchday squad – the other is scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies – and said he would do anything it takes to help steer the team to success in this once-in-a-lifetime Castle Lager Lions Series.
The Springboks suffered a 22-17 defeat in the opening Test last Saturday, but the talented back said the team had the drive and desire to fight back when the sides meet again at the Cape Town Stadium.
“All the guys are professional and as a team we have been in this position a few times – I can guarantee you that we won’t sit back and feel sorry for ourselves,” said Willemse.
“We have everything to play for. We’ve been working hard this week, we are looking forward to the second Test and we’ll give it our all.”
Willemse was confident in his ability to cover flyhalf, inside centre and fullback if required as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber opted for a six-two split of forwards and backs on the replacements bench.
“I’ve been in this system and working with coaches since 2018, so I’m used to the structures and the versatility,” said Willemse.
“I’ve been playing fullback and flyhalf, although I haven’t played as much at inside centre. But we have a good structure in the team and having a guy like Damian de Allende in the side helps too.
“I’m excited to take this opportunity knowing the coaches back me and that they’ve given me the freedom to play.
“With a big series such as the Castle Lager Lions Series, which comes by once in a lifetime, it’s important for me to grab my opportunities and give everything I have for my country.”
Willemse was positive about being able to slot into the midfield, although he is more accustomed to playing fullback and flyhalf, and said: “The coaches have always been clear on their plans and where they’d like to see me.
“I know I’m covering No 10, 12 and 15 this weekend. Playing centre is not vastly different to playing flyhalf. The main difference is being in the frontline and chasing the kicks, but I’ve played Carling Currie Cup rugby at inside centre, so there isn’t much of a difference.
“At the end of the day I’m still playing rugby and that comes with tackling, chasing and doing all the other things expected of me.”
Willemse was not perturbed about trying to enforce his role in a specific position in the team and said he enjoyed being able to offer some versatility in his play.
“As Springboks our goals and ambitions are never greater than that of the Springbok team,” he said.
“I’m happy to help wherever I can and wherever the coach needs me. I am enjoying it and I’ll do anything to help the team win the series.”