CAPE TOWN – He has operated mainly at fullback for the Springboks in recent months, but Damian Willemse will return to his specialist flyhalf position for Western Province in Saturday’s Currie Cup clash against the Blue Bulls at Loftus.
Willemse played at No 15 in WP’s 33-21 final triumph last year against the Sharks in Durban, with Robert du Preez the pivot that day.
But the 20-year-old hot-stepper from Strand has always been the real deal at No 10, and he will go head-to-head with another former junior star, Manie Libbok, in the flyhalf duel.
Willemse’s selection in his preferred position sees Dillyn Leyds at fullback, and he is also someone with a point to prove to Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus ahead of the end-of-year tour.
Leyds has been out of the national picture during Erasmus’ tenure, with the Bok coach opting for the likes of Warrick Gelant and Willemse to back-up first-choice Willie le Roux.
WP coach John Dobson could again choose from a seriously quality group of players, and finally restored Sikhumbuzo Notshe to No 8 for the Loftus showdown.
Notshe has been strangely playing at No 6 for Province this season, with Juarno Augustus at the back of the scrum, even though Notshe is an out-and-out eighthman, and started there for the Boks against the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth.
Sanity has now prevailed, with Kobus van Dyk at openside flank and Ernst van Rhyn at blindside.
It will also be a power-packed front row for WP, with Springbok tighthead Wilco Louw set to earn his 50th cap alongside Scarra Ntubeni and Ali Vermaak.
A welcome name in the team is inside centre Dan du Plessis, who makes his first start of the competition this year, having played behind Dan Kriel thus far.
Du Plessis could form an explosive midfield partnership with Bok squad member Ruhan Nel.
“The Blue Bulls will obviously be highly motivated for this match, which should provide us with the sort of challenge we need ahead of the playoffs,” Dobson said, with WP having already secured a home semi-final.
“We have got an extremely exciting team, and we are all looking forward to putting our plans into action at Loftus Versfeld.”
Western Province Team
15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 SP Marais, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Ali Vermaak
Bench: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Josh Stander.