Pressure is off Damian Willemse now after pledging future to WP, says John Dobson
CAPE TOWN - Stormers head coach John Dobson says the certainty that comes with knowing he’s going to play his rugby in the Cape for the next three years has eased the pressure off Damian Willemse and allowed him to play the way he did against the Bulls at Loftus at the weekend.
In their 34-29 defeat to their rivals, Willemse produced one of his best outings in recent games as he delivered a few class kicks from hand and made solid contributions on attack. Overall, he seemed to play with the kind of intent and potency that was missing for a while.
That performance, Dobson believes, has much to do with the Willemse having signed with the Stormers for the near future after there were talks of him swapping the Cape for Pretoria, especially given his connection to Johann Rupert, who co-owns a controlling share in the Bulls.
The certainty that’s come with knowing where he’ll be plying his trade, along with him having settled at fullback, is what has freed him up to get back to his dangerous self, Dobson explained during a media briefing yesterday.
“I think Damian’s performance had a lot to do with him knowing where he’s going to be playing his rugby in the future, because I think that was a massive stress and weight on him. Now he knows he’s playing in Cape Town, so that’s a weight off him.”
The 10-or-15 debate is one that’s been going for a while. Willemse started out at flyhalf, but his involvement with the Springboks at 15 and his shifting between the two positions for Western Province and the Stormers has seen the debate remain an open tab.
But he’s enjoying his time at the back now, Dobson said, adding that Willemse is keen to settle wherever it best benefits the team.
“He enjoys 15, that’s where he wants to focus. He really is the ultimate team guy, he does whatever is necessary for the team. When he was playing 10 he said he’s very happy to do it, and now, playing at 15 and knowing where he’s going to be for the next few years seems like a good cocktail for him.
“You could almost feel the weight come off his shoulders, I think he battled with that for a long time. He’s also settled at 15 a bit now. So, settling at 15 and knowing where he’s going to be playing is good for him, so I’m excited.”