CAPE TOWN – Western Province coach John Dobson has sprung a surprise by starting Damian Willemse at inside centre in the Currie Cup final against the Sharks at Newlands.
Willemse wore the No 10 jersey in last week’s epic 35-32 semi-final win over the Blue Bulls, but will shift to No 12, with Josh Stander getting the nod at flyhalf.
It is a big call by Dobson, especially as Willemse is also pushing to be recognised as a pivot by Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus, who has employed him mainly at fullback so far.
“I would be lying to you if I had to say this wasn’t planned. He played 45 minutes at 12 last week, because of extra time,” Dobson said on Thursday.
“I think we would’ve been more at risk if… It has been made clear that his (immediate) international future is at fullback.
“It is a lot to ask a guy to boss the game, with the rush defence, at 10. At 12, you go flat-out the whole time.
“Josh has a lot of experience, and the team feel comfortable. Damian and our centres were taking it to the line, and the only ball we got to the back was with SP’s try.
“Josh is quite good at getting the ball out of the back.
“Damian is also very good defensively at 12, and he probably has a bigger boot in terms of distance, which helps us to make sure we don’t play in the wrong territory.”
Dobson, though, would’ve been a relieved man to have two Springboks, Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Jano Vermaak, back from injury.
Both players missed the Bulls game, but their experience and skill levels saw Dobson not hesitating to jettison Juarno Augustus and Herschel Jantjies from the starting XV.
Western Province Team
15 Dillyn Leyds 14 Sergeal Petersen 13 Ruhan Nel 12 Damian Willemse 11 SP Marais 10 Josh Stander 9 Jano Vermaak 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe 7 Ernst van Rhyn 6 Kobus van Dyk 5 JD Schickerling 4 Chris van Zyl (captain) 3 Wilco Louw 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Bench: 16 Scarra Ntubeni 17 Caylib Oosthuizen 18 Michael Kumbirai 19 Salmaan Moerat 20 Jaco Coetzee 21 Herschel Jantjies 22 Dan Kriel 23 JJ Engelbrecht.