Western Province star Damian Willemse: Criticism comes with the job
CAPE TOWN - It may have been a perpetual debate until now, but whether he does duty at flyhalf or fullback isn’t much of a concern for Damian Willemse at the moment.
Willemse was speaking during a digital press conference yesterday and, naturally, the question of his preferred position came up.
While he started his journey with the Stormers and Western Province as a No 10, when it’s come to the Springbok picture, Willemse has been primarily used as a 15. And now, during the domestic competition, the World Cup-winner has also spent time at the back in the absence of Warrick Gelant, with Tim Swiel the starting flyhalf.
Willemse, who spoke to the media before Saturday’s game against the Sharks was called off because of positive Covid-19 tests in the Durban side’s camp, explained that he is just going to keep doing what he has been doing – just playing his game.
“I want the team to win, that’s the most important thing. If you get involved in personal battles you get yourself out of the game and you’re not focused on what you need to do. I just want to play my game and do what I need to do for the team and make sure that we get that home semi-final,” Willemse said.
When asked about the flak that has been thrown his way recently after he wasn’t at his best in a couple of games, Willemse said: “I don’t know what to say about that, I think it’s something that comes with the job. Obviously, as a young player, to step up to that position and take it is quite tough, but it’s part of the job and something you have to learn to deal with. It’s all about taking the learnings and growing as a person, as a man and growing every day.”
At the weekend, Province survived a second-half fightback from the Free State Cheetahs and claimed a 31-29 win after Swiel connected a penalty in the 81st minute to edge the Bloemfontein team after a thrilling contest.
❌ CANCELLED! The #CarlingCurrieCup clash between DHL WP and the Cell C Sharks is off— Carling Currie Cup (@TheCurrieCup) January 6, 2021
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The result could easily have gone the other way, but WP have now booked a semi-final spot. Willemse, while reflecting on the game, also spoke about what’s been key for WP since rugby returned to the local scene.
“It was a lot like a Test match – the team that made the most errors were always going to struggle. It’s very important for Tim and me to get the team into the right areas of the field, and at the moment I think we’re doing it well,” Willemse said.
“It was a great relief for us, it was a moment of brilliance from Tim Swiel. He’s been working hard on his kicking, so we’re very happy for him. Credit to the forwards as well, they have been immense for us over the last few months. He (Tim) is a great individual, and he’s a team man as well. He’s been around the block so I’m also learning a few things from him.”
Willemse’s attacking abilities need no introduction, and when asked if he would like to enjoy more of a running game, he said: “I think at the moment, with the position that we’re in, we’re facing the business end of the competition.
“I’m not going to say we’re not going to run with the ball, but if you make a mistake, teams are going to punish you. We saw with Frans Steyn ... kicking 60-metre kicks and building scoreboard pressure.
“So, it’s very important to stay conscious of where to run and where to kick. That is just something that comes naturally, I don’t think you need to plan it, if you see a gap, you take the gap, so I think that’s pretty much it.”