DURBAN - When Stormers youngster Damian Willemse was selected for the Springboks’ Rugby Championship squad, it was mostly heralded as a good move. The Baby Bok star offers so much to the national side with his attacking flair, defensive prowess and versatility around the backline.
However, the question that arose was where to play the mercurial back, especially as a potential test debutant. Many feel Willemse’s best position is at No 10, however, that is not where the coach is lining him up in this current set up.
Rassie Erasmus has said he sees Willemse as a fullback. With Willie le Roux the experienced first choice man at No 15, and his deputy from June, Warrick Gelant, out with injury, Willemse is stepping up into the role of apprentice Bok fullback.
“If a guy like Warrick was fit now, he could learn a lot of things from Willie. We really should have started Warrick against England, but now he is unfortunately injured. So, now we are seeing Damian very much in that role.”
What it also allows is for Erasmus to not need an out-and-out specialist flyhalf on the bench - much like he did in one of the Test matches against England. If Willemse was to start, or be on the bench, it means that he can fill either role should the circumstances arise.
“I am 100 percent thinking that Damian can fill in at flyhalf even if he is being viewed as a fullback,” Erasmus added. “It is a common thing that people often make difficult; the moment you have played at fullback and felt how the opposition 10 is trying to manipulate you, and then you go to 10, you can use that experience.
“A lot of people do it, a lot of clubs - Frans Steyn did it, he played fullback and flyhalf; Damian McKenzie did it; Dan Carter played 12 there are so many examples of those who played 10 and 15 because tactically you have to outsmart the fullback.”
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus adressed the media during lunchtime at the team hotel in Durban on Monday. "The Boks are looking forward to fine tune their preparations for Saturday's Test against the Pumas." #LoveRugby @Official_Bozza @MTNza pic.twitter.com/fA25HiJv6s— South African Rugby (@Springboks) August 13, 2018