Cape Town - While the Western Province scrum, flyhalf Robert du Preez and centre Huw Jones all stole the headlines in Saturday's Currie Cup final win over the Sharks in Durban, it was also a massive day for 19-year-old Damian Willemse.
It has been a breakthrough season for the Paul Roos old boy, who has shone throughout with his attacking skill, distribution and seemingly other-worldly side-stepping ability.
While flyhalf appears to be his best position, Willemse was utilised in the No 15 jersey towards the back-end of this Currie Cup season as Robert du Preez came into his own in the No 10 jersey.
Du Preez is on his way to the Sharks next year, and WP coach John Dobson confirmed after the 33-21 win that he had offered Willemse the flyhalf position for the business end of the Currie Cup given that he is considered to be the future of the union.
"I actually went to Damian a couple weeks ago when we beat the Sharks and Rob was outstanding and I said 'listen, you’re the future of the union and this guy is leaving ... I’m happy to play you at No 10,'" Dobson said.
Willemse's response was unexpected.
"He said 'No, I’m loving it and I want to play with Rob,'" Dobson said.
"People can criticise from outside about why we're not playing him at No 10, but you could see how many times today he played first receiver ... the plan worked very well."
Willemse's rise this year has been astounding, and Dobson believes that he is a player who should be considered incredibly valuable to the future of South African rugby, regardless of what position he plays.
"For a guy who was writing matric exams this time, last year, in the pressure cooker that was an exceptional performance," Dobson said of Willemse's display in the final.
"I think he is one of the serious talents of South African rugby and you’ll see he’s going to play both positions moving forward."