Damian Willemse, right, in the gym at the Springboks’ base in Australia alongside Lukhanyo Am. Picture: Springboks/twitter
Damian Willemse, right, in the gym at the Springboks’ base in Australia alongside Lukhanyo Am. Picture: Springboks/twitter

Springboks v Wallabies: All about playing clever and smart, says Damian Willemse

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Sep 4, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - The Springboks are fully aware of the threat that the Wallabies and All Blacks will present out wide in the Rugby Championship – but that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to unleash their own weapons on attack.

Utility back Damian Willemse, who has featured as a fullback and inside centre against the British and Irish Lions, as well as the two Tests against Argentina, feels that the South Africans are well versed in creating try-scoring opportunities for their strike-runners such as Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe.

ALSO READ: ‘For me, a preferred position is to try and make the 23’ – where should Damian Willemse play for the Boks?

The Aussies and Kiwis face off in their second Bledisloe Cup clash in Perth on Sunday, before the Wallabies take on the Boks next Sunday (12.05pm SA time kickoff) at the CBUS Super Stadium on the Gold Coast.

Willemse had a naturally attacking approach when coming through youth rugby and as a flyhalf at the Stormers, but he has made greater use of his boot at Test level, where he has mainly turned out as a replacement No 15.

The 23-year-old, though, doesn’t feel that he has had to hold back on his natural instincts.

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“I wouldn’t say I am thinking more about kicking. We have a specific plan of how we want to win Test matches, especially for us as fullbacks – as coach Stokke (Mzwandile Stick) said about Willie (le Roux) and the way he is managing the play,” Willemse said yesterday from the Bok base on the Gold Coast.

”There is a certain plan that we have and want to achieve, and force pressure and force the turnover for our brilliant wingers like Makazole and Cheslin to score their tries.

“I had this conversation with Aphelele (Fassi) today, and we were speaking about how small the margins are. If you do make a mistake – and it might be a small mistake – it will be five or seven points against you, especially against teams like Australia and New Zealand, who have a lot of skilful players in their backline.

“It’s all about playing clever and playing smart against good opposition.”

Willemse has been particularly impressive at No 12 in his cameos off the bench, and while he is pleased with his contributions this year, he doesn’t mind where he plays. He also added that he has learnt a lot from the experienced Frans Steyn.

“I am really fortunate to be in the match 23. There are a lot of quality players like Frans Steyn, Jesse (Kriel) who are all missing out. And for me, it’s an opportunity every week to make the best out of it,” he said.

“I don’t have a preferred position – for me, a preferred position is almost to try and make the 23. There are a lot of quality players who aren’t fortunate enough to make the match23 – guys like Frans Steyn, Jesse Kriel, Morné Steyn, guys with 40, 50, 60 caps behind their names.

“I’ve been training with Frans Steyn the entire week leading up to the Tests, and he is such a chilled guy who is working really hard on his game as well.

“Just to have him with us, his presence in the team… always calm, always comes up with a plan. Always clear communication. I’ve been really enjoying him as a person on and off the field. He is helping a lot of the youngsters in the backline, such as Fassi and I.”

@ashfakmohamed

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