Coach John Dobson has hailed the starring role played by injured centre Damian Willemse in the Stormers’ Vodacom URC semi-final victory. DYLAN JACK reports.
Initial reports had ruled Willemse out for the rest of the season after the midfielder suffered an elbow injury that forced him to the sidelines for the quarter-final against Edinburgh.
However, the 24-year-old was a surprise inclusion in the starting lineup for Saturday’s semi-final, which the Stormers won 17-15 thanks to Manie Libbok’s conversion of Warrick Gelant’s last-minute try.
Willemse, with a heavily strapped left arm, was named Man of the Match for his performance, scrapping on defence and carrying strongly on attack as the Stormers progressed to their first major final since 2010.
“It’s a credit to him, because he is not fully fit,” Dobson said after the match. “He was in quite a bit of pain at some stages. For him to come through and get Man of the Match in those circumstances is just brilliant. I hope he is all right for next week.
“He has got some form of compound fracture in his elbow, which is healing. Another week will help a lot.
“If anybody oozes blue and white in their veins, bleeds blue and white, it’s Damian Willemse,” Dobson added. “He wasn’t missing this game for anything. When the doctor said he could play, late in the week, he shouted ‘Yes man!’ out of the window at people in traffic. He is a special person and a special player, so I am very chuffed. It was amazing, you could see how heavily he was strapped.”
Dobson admitted that the Stormers have plenty of technical work-ons before they host the Bulls in the URC final in Cape Town next week.
“It was a very frustrating performance. Our discipline was poor. Not only in terms of what was an unsatisfactory performance with the referee, but also with traditional discipline. Just in terms of how we didn’t stick to our plan. So, it was a poor performance.
“But we showed great heart. To come back and dominate in the final 10 minutes with 14 men against a team like Ulster was very special.”
Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix