Willemse happy in No 15 jumper for Stormers
Town - When Damian
Willemse stepped on to the Super Rugby stage in 2017, he
made an almost immediate impact.
Stormers fans were immediately
struck by his natural, instinctive skill-set and his pace off the mark.
Willemse very quickly began to
manufacture a reputation for himself as one of South African rugby's brightest
young prospects, and it is difficult to believe that he is still just
2018 was a breakthrough year for
the Paul Roos product, with Stormers coach Robbie Fleck having played him at
flyhalf for much of the Super Rugby campaign.
Particularly in the first half of
the season, Willemse provided encouraging signs as a playmaker at a time when
South African rugby was desperate for individuals who could deliver an
attacking brand after two dismal years under former Springbok coach Allister
Willemse, it seemed, had all the
That honeymoon period is now over
for the youngster, and the rigours of playing and training week in and week out
are setting in.
The Stormers have had a difficult
start to Super Rugby 2019 with six of their eight matches so far being played
away from home, including a four-match Australasian tour.
Along the way, Willemse has
slotted into fullback - a position he now seems destined to occupy for some
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has said
numerous times that he views Willemse as a No 15 and that, if he goes to the
World Cup in Japan this year, he will go as cover for Willie le Roux.
While Willemse possesses an
undeniable x-factor, that part of his game has had to sometimes be put on hold
for the Stormers this year.
He is no longer the new kid on
the block, and as a result opposing teams are mindful of what he can do, and
they prepare accordingly.
Instead, Willemse has had to put
in the hard graft in 2019 with a strong focus on being dominant in the air and
"It's going good. I'm happy,"
Willemse told media at the Stormers' Bellville training complex on Monday.
"Coach Dave (Snyman) has
helped me a lot now over the last month, especially in my counter attacks and
kicking game. I'm feeling positive and enjoying it."
While Willemse acknowledges that
he will always want to play at flyhalf, he knows that performing at fullback is
part of a bigger plan for both the Stormers and the Springboks.
"I'm really happy to be
playing at No 15," he said.
"I'm just trying to do my extras
every day and keep reviewing my game. I'm just trying to play well.
"After playing a couple of
seasons the guys get to know you, so I'm just trying to keep my confidence up.
"I'm settling into the No 15
role and in the last couple of games it went really well, and I think I'm
starting to find something now.
"It's not going to happen overnight,
and I know it isn't going to be easy."
The Stormers are next in action
when they host the Brumbies at Newlands at 15:05.