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Willemse deemed fit enough for Stormers

Gifted utility back returns despite lingering arm injury

11 June 2022 - 10:02
Damian Willemse is back at inside centre for the Stormers in their crunch URC clash against Ulster.
Damian Willemse is back at inside centre for the Stormers in their crunch URC clash against Ulster.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

The Stormers have restored the incisive Damian Willemse to inside centre for their United Rugby Championship (URC) semifinal against Ulster at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.

Willemse who missed last weekend's quarterfinal win over Edinburgh is back in the side but his inclusion may be a calculated risk. Willemse has been struggling with an arm injury and though he has learnt to operate with the injury he may be exposing himself to further risk.

The Stormers are however a little thin at inside centre especially after Rikus Pretorius suffered a leg injury last week.

Willemse getting through unscathed this week, and indeed the URC final should the Stormers get there, will be a development Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber will be watching with keen interest ahead of the Test series against Wales.

Vital cog

Stormers coach John Dobson said after last weekend's win the player was desperate to play but that, that may not be possible. Dobson did say the Stormers would seek a second opinion and that the player would be sent for another scan.

Willemse is after all a vital cog in the Stormers' armoury. He is an enthusiastic defender but it is in attack that he provides the team a point of difference. His midfield partnership with Manie Libbok, as well as his understanding with fullback Warrick Gelant have been bewitching.

“Damian is another phenomenal player and credit must go to him and the medical staff for getting him ready for this game. He is a world-class performer who would make a difference to any team,” said Dobson.

From Sevens heaven

Willemse's return is the only change in the Stormers line-up for Saturday's semifinal that will see right-wing Seabelo Senatla play in his 50th game for the Stormers. That the former Sevens sensation has reached the milestone underlines the successful transition he has made to the 15-man code. Senatla has accentuated Sevens qualities like high work rate and ruthless finishing, but it is the manner in which he has sought constant improvement and refinement in the 15-man code that has elevated him in most observers' estimation.

“Seabelo is an incredibly gifted athlete who would have reached this milestone long ago if he wasn't also one of the greatest Sevens players of all time. He deserves all the plaudits that come his way, he is a true professional and a big part of our success this season,” said Dobson.

The Stormers have opted for a six-two split on the bench with Godlen Masimla and young Sacha Mngomezulu, who made his debut last weekend, back in the playing group in the absence of the injured Pretorius.

Stormers to play Ulster — Warrick Gelant; Seabelo Senatla, Ruhan Nel, Damian Willemse, Leolin Zas; Manie Libbok, Herschel Jantjies; Evan Roos, Hacjivah Dayimani, Deon Fourie; Marvin Orie, Salmaan Moerat; Frans Malherbe, JJ Kotze, Steven Kitshoff (captain).Substitutes: Andre-Hugo Venter, Brok Harris, Neethling Fouche, Adre Smith, Ernst van Rhyn, Nama Xaba; Godlen Masimla, Sacha Mngomezulu.

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