Western Province coach John Dobson says flyhalf Damian Willemse still has hopes of making it into the Springboks’ 31-man squad for the World Cup. DYLAN JACK reports.
Willemse will start in Province’s crunch Currie Cup clash with the Cheetahs after making a successful comeback from a knee injury when he played off the bench in the loss against Griquas last Friday.
The 21-year-old had a fantastic impact in Kimberley, making numerous linebreaks while also setting up one of Province’s tries in the game.
Willemse is in a race against time to make the Springbok squad for the World Cup – to be announced on 26 August – after having not played a minute of Test rugby this year.
However, Dobson said on Wednesday that while Willemse hopes to make the final cut, he is mentally strong enough to get through a snub.
‘He is a special kid off the field. This is not your run-of-the-mill maverick flyhalf. This is a deep thinker of the game and about life. I spoke to him before and his approach was that it was up to him. If he sets Bloemfontein alight on Saturday afternoon he might still create a headache for the national selectors.
‘He is playing to play in the World Cup. That is the right attitude, even if he knows it is unlikely.’
Dobson added that a short-term loan move to Saracens is in the works for Willemse, but he is still focused on putting in a strong performance on Saturday.
‘There is the possibility he might go on loan to Saracens during the World Cup, which I think is a brilliant opportunity. With the kicking game in Europe and he will have the opportunity to work with [kicking coach] Dan Vickers and [director of rugby] Mark McCall.
‘His first goal is to win on Saturday, play as well as he can. If he is not announced in the squad on Monday night, then he will think about Saracens. It is the right approach.’
Western Province need to win in Bloemfontein for a bonus point – while denying the Cheetahs any points – to guarantee a place in the semi-finals, or else they will have to hope other results go their way this weekend.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images