• Willemse: I don’t need more time to settle at flyhalf

    Damian Willemse feels he is experienced enough to take ownership of the flyhalf position at the Stormers. DYLAN JACK reports.

    The great debate surrounding Willemse has always been whether he is better suited to flyhalf or fullback.

    While at a domestic level it is clear that Stormers coach John Dobson sees him as potentially one of the best flyhalves in the country, at national level things are a bit more murky as Willemse is viewed as someone who can cover both flyhalf and fullback.

    ‘The plan has always been to use me at No 10 and No 15,’ Willemse said. ‘That’s the two positions that I am rotating in at the moment. At the Stormers I have been playing at flyhalf for the season now. At national level it depends. I made my debut for the national team [vs Argentina in 2018] at flyhalf.

    ‘It is giving me a lot of opportunity to grow and to see the game from different angles. I prefer No 10 and coach Jacques [Nienaber] and the coaching staff have backed me at 10 and given me opportunities to play 15 because I am within the group of players to choose at 15.’

    Paul Feeney – who worked as an assistant coach at the Stormers in 2018 and 2019 before taking on his current role as Kenya director of rugby – once remarked that a player needs around 35 games to become comfortable in the flyhalf channel.

    Willemse said that with 30 Vodacom Super Rugby caps to his name, it isn’t a matter of him needing more experience or freedom, but rather a case of finding some consistency in his performances.

    ‘I remember Paul Feeney telling me that,’ Willemse said. ‘He always told me not to be so hard on myself and just to play the game. He said once I get to 35 games, he would start backing off – not stop coaching me but allowing me to start running things. I think I am around 30 or so games. I don’t think I need any more time to settle in. I have been around world-class players. It is just about how you perform and that you perform week in and week out.

    ‘I think I have definitely become a better player than I was four years ago. It is all about my consistency. I don’t think it’s a question of me needing more freedom. We are always backed by our coaches at the Stormers to play what we see. But within that there is a gameplan. Throughout the week we sit and plan about how we are going to go against our opposition. It is important to look at what the opposition is going to bring and play according to that.’

    Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images

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    Dylan Jack