CAPE TOWN – Damian Willemse will have double the motivation to set Bloemfontein alight tomorrow.
Province have to win their last Currie Cup league game to secure a semi-final spot, and looking at the strike force in that backline, Western Province coach John Dobson has selected a team that should be able to torment the Free State Cheetahs on attack, with the Junior Springbok reunion of Willemse and debutant Rikus Pretorius particularly exciting.
Willemse will start at flyhalf after a strong performance off the bench in Kimberley last week, and while Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has strongly hinted that the World Cup door is closed for him, Aphiwe Dyanty and Warren Whiteley as none of them have played a single minute of Test rugby this year due to injury, Dobson gave insight into where Willemse’s head is at ahead of the game.
“He is a special kid off the field. This is not your run-of-the-mill maverick flyhalf. This is a deep thinker of the game and about life. I spoke to him before and his approach was that it was up to him. If he sets Bloemfontein alight on Saturday afternoon he might still create a headache for the national selectors.
“He is playing to play in the World Cup. That is the right attitude, even if he knows it is unlikely.”
So, Willemse will want to produce a stunner of a performance, not only to help Province get the job done, but also to make Erasmus think twice.
Another backline player who’ll be keen to make an impact is the hard-running, physical, offload-loving Pretorius.
The 20-year-old comes in for Dan Kriel, who is struggling with an injury he picked up in the loss against Griquas, and Dobson explained that with Springbok Damian de Allende moving to Japan after the World Cup, they need to get the likes of Pretorius ready ahead of next year’s Super Rugby campaign.
“He was outstanding for the SA U20’s this year in the Junior World Championships. If anything we have probably left this a little bit late. He has been doing really well for our U21s. We need to build for the future,” he said.
“I am excited by him. He is big and he plays very flat. He is very physical, so we are quite excited about this one. It is maybe a week or two too late but we will see what he can do.”
The game kicks off at 5.15 pm.
Western province team:
Dillyn Leyds, Sergeal Petersen, Ruhan Nel, Rikus Pretorius, SP Marais, Damian Willemse, Justin Phillips, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, JD Schickerling, Ernst van Rhyn, Chris van Zyl, Salmaan Moerat, Wilco Louw, Scarra Ntubeni, Corne Fourie;
Replacements: Chad Solomon, Kwenzo Blose, Neethling Fouche, Nama Xaba, Juarno Augustus, Paul de Wet, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Seabelo Senatla@WynonaLouw