Stormers coach John Dobson says the team’s coaching staff hope that new signing Warrick Gelant can replace Dillyn Leyds’ on-field influence. DYLAN JACK reports.
Gelant was brought in from the Vodacom Bulls following the departure of fullback Dillyn Leyds to France and Jean-Luc du Plessis to Japan.
The 25-year-old – who is originally from Knysna – has starred for the Bulls since making his senior debut for the team back in 2015.
When probed on the thinking behind the move, Dobson said he felt Damian Willemse needed to be backed at flyhalf and therefore fullback became the position they targeted for a new signing.
‘We had a chat to Warrick a couple of years ago and it didn’t come off,’ Dobson said. ‘Once we lost Jean-Luc, then we started thinking who could play flyhalf for us. Like I said last week, I couldn’t think of anybody better – or who can become better – than Damian Willemse. I think with Damian there has been a lot of emotion and it has been a big thing, the debate about Damian Willemse. But if you look at his game analytically – yes, on penalties he doesn’t kick the ball as far out as he can and his goal-kicking rate probably – but jeepers, you have a kid who is fearless on defence and is a great passer. It is up to us as the coaches to help him with the game-management stuff.
‘Our kicking game wasn’t good enough, but to put that all on Damian would be wrong. Our kicking off nine wasn’t what it should have been, we weren’t organised enough and our exits weren’t organised enough. So I think that has put a bit of emotion on Damian. We feel, when we looked at it, that Damian has a massive future at flyhalf. There was nothing in that market that we could get that would be better than Damian. So once we realised that Jean-Luc is gone and Damian is here, we looked at fullback.
‘Warrick gets a contribution from SA Rugby as one of the PONI players. He has been at the Bulls for a long time, had a great career there and was just looking for a move. For us, it happened in two or three days, it was completely serendipitous. Here was a guy, who was about to stay at the Bulls, he is from this region and felt like a change of scenery and it worked out very well.
‘We did our dilligence on him,’ Dobson added. ‘What Dillyn Leyds brought to this team has been very hard to replace, especially off the field. But Warrick is a really good communicator and a really good professional. With our wings – who tend to be out-and-out strikers – they need a guy at the back there who can tell them what to do and Warrick is known as being really good on detail, a really good professional and a very good trainer. Dillyn’s influence wasn’t only about the offload and top-knot, there was a bit more to him and that’s what we hope Warrick can bring.’
Dobson confirmed that former Western Province, Sharks and Harlequins back Tim Swiel had returned to the Western Cape and would be linking up with the squad.
The 26-year-old Swiel played under Dobson for the WP U21 side in 2012 and 2013 before moving to Durban to join the Sharks from the 2013 Currie Cup. He then returned to England in 2014 and had stints at Harlequins and the Newcastle Falcons, helping the latter win promotion back into the Premiership.
Along with Swiel, Dobson said there were several young flyhalves coming through the system and that Western Province were therefore settled on their depth in the position.
‘I think we are sorted,’ Dobson said. ‘There are three or four really good youngsters. Obviously Kade Wolhuter has come back from Montpellier, there are two youngsters at Maties – Christopher Schreuder and [Juan] Mossie Mostert – then there is a guy from schoolboy rugby called Sacha Mngomezulu who is coming to us as well. This buys us time to bring one of them through.
‘Tim Swiel, who you might remember played for the Sharks and Western Province, for personal reasons has come back to South Africa and will join us via the club system. Abner [van Reenen] is also very much part of the group. He is a guy who will be under consideration – when we finish the contracting process – to stay on for next year. We haven’t finalised that yet, but he is a good player. That gives us a fair amount of depth in the position.’
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