Fleck on Willemse role: Stormers first, then Boks
Town - Damian Willemse's immediate
international future, and his best shot at making it to the Rugby World Cup in
Japan next year, comes at fullback.
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has made that very
While Willemse was one of the
form South African flyhalves for the Stormers in Super Rugby this year, the No
10 jersey for the Boks belongs to the in-form Handre Pollard while Elton
Jantjies has done enough in 2018 to secure his spot as the second-choice playmaker.
A dangerous ball-in-hand threat
with pace, a mean side-step and an educated, big boot, Willemse seems to be
flexible enough to play both 10 and 15.
He started this year's November
Test against England at Twickenham at fullback and was impressive, further
solidifying his place as next in line in that position behind Willie le
With only five Tests remaining
for the Boks between now and the World Cup, the importance of next year's Super
Rugby cannot be understated in getting the Boks firing for their tournament
opener against the All Blacks in Yokohama on September 21.
But while Erasmus would love to
see more of Willemse in the No 15 jersey at Newlands this year, Fleck must do
what is best for his side.
The coach is, after all, out of
contract at the Stormers at the end of 2019 and needs a season that sees his
side make a run deep into the tournament.
"He's quite keen to give
fullback a crack, but the team will come first and whatever position we need
him at, we will play him," Fleck said of Willemse.
"He understands that. He's a
wonderfully talented player and it's our responsibility as the Stormers and as
coaches to look after him and develop him.
"I thought he had a
wonderful season last season at flyhalf, but with Jean-Luc (Du Plessis) coming
back to full fitness at flyhalf and with the success of Josh Stander at Currie
Cup level, there is healthy competition.
"We'll try and help out SA
Rugby as much as we can, but it will be 'Stormers first', and the players
Du Plessis has had a nightmarish
run of injuries, with groin, hip and abdominal problems plaguing his last two
seasons, but Fleck says that he is good to go.
"Most of the guys will be
fit and ready to go ... we're expecting 38 guys and we've got a very strong
squad," Fleck said.
"This time, last year, we
were struggling with a few injuries that happened during the last Test and the
Currie Cup, but this year we're looking good."
The only players who will start
on the injured list when pre-season resumes on January 7 are Ramone Samuels, Johan
du Toit and Paul de Wet.
Prop Cornie Fourie, meanwhile,
has joined from the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan.
The Stormer's first match in
Super Rugby 2019 will be against the Bulls at Loftus on February 16.