Western Province want Willemse at flyhalf despite Bok directive

06 August 2019 - 11:47 By Craig Ray
Damian Willemse of Western Province during the a training session at Bishops School in Cape Town.
Damian Willemse of Western Province during the a training session at Bishops School in Cape Town.
Image: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Western Province coach John Dobson is going to put his needs and perhaps those of Damian Willemse first too‚ by using the talented playmaker as a flyhalf.

Willemse‚ 21‚ spent most of the 2019 Super Rugby season playing fullback due to a request from Springbok management.

A knee injury has ruled him out of the Rugby Championship and although he is on course to play against the Cheetahs in the final weekend of Currie Cup pool play in late August‚ his chances of making the Bok Rugby World Cup squad have been diminished due to his injury.

Bok coach Rassie Erasmus gave Willemse five international opportunities during 2018.

The youngster came off the bench as fullback in four matches and started at fullback against England at Twickenham last November.

Generally it was a successful experiment although Willemse was a Junior Springbok flyhalf who also played centre in his under-20 years.

Like several players before him‚ Willemse’s breath-taking feet‚ speed‚ skill and kicking game‚ mean he can transition from one position to another with success.

But is also means he hasn’t really had a chance to settle in one‚ which could be undermining his talent and potential.

Dobson‚ who will also coach the Stormers in 2020‚ understood the directive from Erasmus gave Willemse the best possible chance to make the 2019 World Cup squad.

But in the bigger picture the Western Province coach feels Willemse needs to start gaining experience at No 10.

“Obviously the World Cup plan [for Willemse] is at No 15‚ but I can’t see us making that change now‚” Dobson said.

“Dillyn Leyds means so much to this team as a fullback. Wing is very competitive – with Seabelo Senatla‚ Sergeal Petersen and SP Marais.

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“Damian will come into the frame at No 10.

“Fullback is where he wanted to be mentally and where Rassie Erasmus saw him in the Bok set–up. But after the World Cup it is a clean slate.

“Damian is more of a 10. I think he struggles more at 15‚ where he has too much time and too much space.

“He is an instinctive player and is brilliant at the line. He likes the traffic in that area.

“Our plan here [at WP] for him in the future is to play flyhalf.”

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