Damian Willemse had a solid outing in his first run at fullback for Province. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – If you heard what Western Province coach John Dobson had to say when he announced his team to face Griquas at Newlands last week, you'd have had every reason to think that Damian Willemse just might get a run-on chance for the Springboks against Australia. 

During the team announcement ahead of WP's fourth Currie Cup fixture of the season, Dobson named Willemse at fullback in the place of Dillyn Leyds, who has been in top form, and also said that there was a "polite request" from the Bok camp to start him in the No 15 jersey.

And he did. 

It wasn't Willemse's first run at fullback for Province.

One of his stints at the back came in the Currie Cup final last year, while the since-departed Robert du Preez started at No 10.

And as requested, the 20-year-old started at fullback in Province's 38-12 win over Griquas at the weekend.

It was a solid outing for the Stormers flyhalf as he had a hand in a few of the hosts' tries in the form of good, big-metre runs and equally-impressive hands, while he also showed his typical eagerness on defence.

And while I do believe that Willemse is a flyhalf and should be developed as such, if it's at fullback where Rassie Erasmus wants to properly introduce him to Test rugby - as he's said in the past - how much harm can that introduction do this week, when the Boks host the Wallabies at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth?

After all, it's certainly not going to get any easier from next week onwards.

This WP bus is full! Damian Willemse in action against Griquas at the weekend. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
This WP bus is full! Damian Willemse in action against Griquas at the weekend. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

That anticipation of the exciting Willemse getting the nod against the Wallabies quickly started to fade when it was announced that Wille le Roux - who was initially expected to miss the two remaining Rugby Championship games due to club commitments with Wasps - would rejoin the Bok squad on Monday night.

While there might have been concerns with regards to Le Roux's apparent erratic ways with those performances in Mendoza and Brisbane, he again showed just how good he can be when he gets it right on the day against the All Blacks in Wellington. 

This was especially clear in the Boks' Championship-opener against Argentina in Durban, where he was a constant threat on attack, did a lot of the orchestrating and produced a pin-point kick-pass for Aphiwe Dyantyi's try.

And a presence like that is always handy.

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But Erasmus has also consistently emphasised the importance of building depth ahead of next year's World Cup, and by now - even though it perhaps hasn't always been as consistently as it could have been - Erasmus knows what Le Roux brings.

So wouldn't now be the right time to see what Willemse can bring on the international stage? In a starting berth?

We all know his talent comes in super-size, but getting that much-needed experience and confidence a year out from rugby's biggest spectacle can only do him well.

And if the plan is to bring him in at fullback before throwing him into the high-pressure waters of flyhalf, sooner rather than later surely is the way to go.


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