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    Fleck on Willemse role: Stormers first, then Boks

    2018-12-18 07:44

    Lloyd Burnard - Sport24

    Cape 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 clear. 

    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 Roux. 

    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 understand that."

    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. 

     

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