Damian Willemse takes part in a Western Province training session ahead of the Currie Cup semi-final. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN - Western Province coach John Dobson gave a few good reasons for backing Robert du Preez at flyhalf, not only during the team announcement on Thursday but last week as well.

During Thursday's press conference, Dobson said that he has an “exciting” second-half plan for Damian Willemse and Jano Vermaak for their home Currie Cup semi-final against the Golden Lions on Saturday (5pm kickoff, SS1), and he also mentioned the dangerous game-breaking ability that the talented Willemse has.

The Province coach explained that the 19-year-old Willemse, along with the other replacements, can “put a game away”. And that’s true, it’s something that will be particularly important this weekend.

But, as Dobson has repeatedly said, Willemse is “the future of the union”. So why not back “the future” in the biggest game of their campaign?

Yes, Willemse has made a couple of mistakes in a few games, but how is he going to grow if his role in such an important contest is reduced to providing X-factor off the bench?

Du Preez has been reliable in the No 10 jersey, and he was instrumental in WP’s win over the Sharks last week. But Willemse also needs to be groomed for next year. And then there is also the fact that Du Preez has been strongly linked with a move to the Sharks next year.

It’s completely understandable that Dobson wants to get this game in the pocket, WP have to. And at the end of the day he should do whatever it takes to get the win.

But it should also be remembered that Willemse is a young, black player, a player who is a natural in one of the most important positions in the game. He needs to be nurtured, he needs to be developed, and that’s not going to happen by shielding him in the games that matter.

As I said before, Du Preez has done well in recent weeks, and like Dobson said last week: horses for courses.

But, at the very least, Willemse could have featured at fullback (although I believe he is a flyhalf and he should be developed as such).

Dillyn Leyds has the ability to produce massive play from the back and on the wing, and if he was picked out wide again, Willemse could have started at fullback.

“We experimented last week to try and keep him (Leyds), Damian and Rob on the field. But I think we saw enough of Dillyn last week on the wing. I think he’s probably our best fullback at the union, so to get maximum use out of him," Dobson said regarding the backline selection.

“We’ve got an exciting second-half plan with Damian and Jano. There’s no doubt Damian Willemse is capable of breaking a game open.”

Again, Dobson’s reasoning makes sense. It’s a semi-final and WP need to produce not only a winning performance, but one that will give them confidence for the final as well.

I just hope Willemse is backed and given the best chance to develop as the great flyhalf he can become. Not only one for the small occasions, but for the big ones as well.

Western Province team: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Ruhan Nel, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg. Bench: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Werner Kok, 23 Damian Willemse.

Golden Lions team: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Len Massyn, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen (captain). Bench: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Rhyno Herbst, 20 Marco Jansen van Vuuren, 21 Sylvian Mahuza, 22 Ashlon Davids, 23 Robert Kruger.

Cape Times

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