CAPE TOWN – Damian Willemse doesn't care whether he plays at flyhalf or fullback, as long as he can get a few touches to spark some magic.
The young Springbok has mostly played at No 10, but he had a few runs in the 15 jumper during Western Province's Currie Cup-winning campaign last year and it's also at fullback (off the bench) that Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has brought him onto the Test arena.
And while Willemse's 'anywhere' attitude certainly won't make this week's selections any harder for WP chief John Dobson, the men that he has available to fill those 10 and 15 spots certainly will.
Province will host the Blue Bulls at Loftus in the second semi-final on Saturday after drowning them 34-7 in the wet at Loftus.
In Willemse's absence, Josh Stander has pulled the strings at flyhalf for WP and it's a task he has taken to very well. And given that it's Stander who started at 10 as Province racked up six bonus-point wins, it should perhaps, on paper, make it a relatively easy choice. But the quality that is Willemse also makes the 20-year-old the automatic choice.
Ahead of their trip to Pretoria last week, a calf niggle pulled Dillyn Leyds out the last league game, which saw Willemse - who was initially named at 10 - move to 15 and Stander come in at 10.
And during the team announcement, when asked if he was tempted to keep Stander at 10, Dobson said that Willemse is one of the best flyhalves in the country and that he has to be used when available.
And given the season Leyds has had, he would of course be the natural choice at 15, if he's fit.
“I don’t really mind where I am playing at the moment, whether it’s at 10 or at 15,” Willemse said. “I think Josh is playing very well, so I must give credit to him. There is a plan going forward and I am prepared to play in both positions. It is very important that I can play more than one position as a backline player. We know how quickly injuries happen these days.”
“There is a big difference between playing flyhalf and fullback. What I like about flyhalf is controlling the game. There is a huge responsibility on the flyhalf’s shoulders to control the game and make sure his team is going forward.”
“What I enjoy about fullback is playing with a bit more freedom as well as scanning and making decisions from the back. Both of them are challenging, especially being under the high ball at fullback.”
Willemse also said that Dobson had a chat with him regarding their plan, and added that he is given the freedom to play his natural game.
“Dobbo told me this weekend that there is a plan and told me that it is important to stick to that plan. I am still getting the licence from him to do my thing in the right areas of the field. There is a plan and at the end of the day, it's about me executing that,” the former SA Schools pivot said.
Due to the weather conditions at the weekend, the WP-Bulls game was abandoned at half time, and while 40 minutes was enough to score four tries to the Bulls' one, the chances to really do damage weren't as high.
“We did not have the opportunity on the weekend. But that stuff happens and Sergeal and SP have been playing well and are exciting. Hopefully this weekend we get a few touches and we can spark our magic and our skills. The coaches are giving us a lot of freedom so it is up to us what we are going to do with that.”
“A north-south derby, from when I was young, was always massive and for us, it is still big. Every game against the Bulls is big and this weekend it will be in front of the Newlands faithful. Both teams have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”