'Special' Willemse must back his instincts

    2017-07-20 16:41

    Lloyd Burnard - Cape Town

    Cape Town - The Stormers go into their Super Rugby quarter-final against the Chiefs at Newlands on Saturday with reason to be positive. 

    It was this fixture in the group stages, after all, that saw the Capetonians turn out their most impressive performance of the season so far when they edged Dave Rennie's charges 34-26 back on April 8 in what was one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament. 

    It took a resilient defensive effort, but in the end coach Robbie Fleck was given the much-needed confirmation that his side could exchange blows with the Kiwi sides. 

    Now, more than three months later, the Stormers are looking for a repeat of that performance. 

    Ten of the players starting Saturday's quarter-final started against the Chiefs on April 8, but the biggest difference is at flyhalf. 

    With Robert du Preez (who started the group stage clash) and Jean-Luc du Plessis injured, Fleck has been forced to look elsewhere and has settled on 19-year-old Damian Willemse as his playmaker in his moment of need. 

    There is no doubting the youngster's ability - he has long been one of the country's most highly-rated young flyhalves - but a Super Rugby quarter-final against an All Black-laden Chiefs side is as tough as it gets. 

    Willemse has started the last three matches for the Stormers, though those have come against the lowly Cheetahs, Sunwolves and Bulls. 

    It could all get a bit daunting on Saturday, but Stormers veteran Juan de Jongh has some valuable advice for Willemse.

    "Damian is special. He's been special throughout the junior ranks for SA U-20 and now for us as well," De Jongh said from Newlands on Thursday.

    "He's been doing great in the past few games, but now in in a quarter-final it comes to a win-lose situation.

    "I've told him he must just focus on his game and what makes him tick at the end of the day, even if it's a quarter-final."

    De Jongh, who is on his way to Wasps at the end of the season, encouraged Willemse to play instinctively. 

    "For us as senior players it's about making sure that he's calm and not stressing out," said De Jongh.

    "He is a guy who, whatever he does, has a lot of x-factor. The first thing that comes into his head he should execute, because that's what makes him special.

    "It's a position where you need to dictate and we need for him to mature now. It's important for him to learn from this, because he's got a bright future ahead."

    As if the occasion wasn't big enough, Willemse is also expected to go up against All Black flyhalf Aaron Cruden. 

    But De Jongh says that who Willemse's opposite number is should not be a factor.

    "I've played this game for a very long time and it's important to go out there confident and not let the occasion get to your head," he said.

    "It's important for him to go out there and play his own game."

    Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:00.



    15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.

    Substitutes: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Seabelo Senatla, 23 Juan de Jongh


    15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Solomon Alaimalo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Stephen Donald, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames

    Substitutes: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Tim Nanai-Williams, 23 Shaun Stevenson

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