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Damian Willemse’s positional drifting has become part of his identity but can he finally find a home at no 12?

Damian Willemse positional drifting has become as much a part of his identity haun Roy/BackpagePix

Damian Willemse positional drifting has become as much a part of his identity haun Roy/BackpagePix

Published Jan 25, 2022


Cape Town - With Stormers head coach John Dobson seeing a potential spot at inside centre for Damian Willemse, could we finally see the talented back settle in one position?

Willemse positional drifting has become as much a part of his identity as his unmatched ability to humiliate defences and make ridiculous displays of skill look easy.

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But is Willemse’s positional musical chairs situation nearing its end with the Stormers?

At the weekend, the Stormers came from behind to pull off a 30-26 United Rugby Championship victory over the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

Manie Libbok started at flyhalf, while Willemse donned the fullback jumper.

Warrick Gelant, who not too long ago returned from the lengthy injury he suffered after returning to the Cape, was on the bench.

He made a huge impact, and after the match, Dobson said that the Bok fullback’s ‘magic’ should be credited for the Stormers coming back and pulling off a win in Pretoria.

With Willemse increasingly being spoken of as a fullback as opposed to a flyhalf, the obvious dilemma the Stormers coaching staff is facing is how to use both Willemse and Gelant in one team, without having to bench one.

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In the Springbok frame, Willemse has mostly featured at 15, while Gelant has never been considered in any other role by Jacques Nienaber and Co.

So, with both the X-factor wealthy ballers on the same union’s books, it is, naturally, a topic that was always going to surface.

After their morale-boosting win in the Highveld, Dobson addressed the Willemse-Gelant situation, saying: “We've got a plan that we're playing towards in these derbies and we'll stick to it.”

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ALSO READ: You’ve got to dust yourself off and come to work on Monday, says Jake White after Stormers loss

It is understood there is some uncertainty around Gelant’s future at the Stormers as he is contracted to Western Province until October, but Dobson is confident that Gelant will spend more time in Cape Town.

"The logical move is for Damian to move to 12, but that's not going to happen in the next couple of weeks.

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"We weren't coming back from that game if it wasn't for Warrick's magic and Manie also played well," Dobson said.

"The important thing is to give Manie as much confidence in playing at 10 because he's played in the position for several teams. He'll get a run there and after a pressure game like this, he'll get better for the experience."

So, with all the uncertainty, one thing seems clear – Libbok is the Stormers’ flyhalf.

Yes, Willemse at 12 isn’t the worst idea – physically he has the attributes and him playing outside Libbok can be a nightmare for the opposition.

ALSO READ: John Dobson hails Warrick Gelant magic for Stormers, as Jake White bemoans Bulls’ ’stupid penalties’

The Stormers, however, don’t lack midfield resources. Rikus Pretorius is a specialist inside centre, then there is also Dan du Plessis who, despite his unfortunate run with injury, is a player’s whose class cannot be questioned.

There’s also Ruhan Nel, a 13 who can mix creativity with more direct play.

But, focusing on Willemse, should he be used in midfield, what will that mean for him in the national frame?

Firstly, the Boks don't lack midfield resources. Also, it is no secret that versatility in rugby can be a curse. To some extent, Willemse has experienced that. And it would be a real pity if his potential move to midfield at the Stormers only adds to that.


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