Stormers head coach John Dobson's assessment of Damian Willemse should bring some calm to those who are worried about the young flyhalf's form. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
Stormers head coach John Dobson's assessment of Damian Willemse should bring some calm to those who are worried about the young flyhalf's form. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Dobson praises WIllemse for effort

By Wynona Louw Time of article published Feb 25, 2020

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Stormers head coach John Dobson's assessment of Damian Willemse should bring some calm to those who are worried about the young flyhalf's form. 

It's no secret that Willemse hasn't set the Super Rugby stage alight in 2020 yet, not the way we know he can. 

There was a particularly thick cloud of panic when the Springbok back had an off day where the tee was concerned against the Bulls in their Round-Two Super Rugby fixture, missing several of his kicks at goal. 

While asking questions about his form is perhaps justified, it should also be remembered where Willemse spent a lot of his time last year - at fullback. 

SA director of rugby Rassie Erasmus last year left no one guessing about his plans for Willemse in the 15 jumper, which saw former Stormers coach Robbie Fleck use Willemse at fullback a number of times to get him used to the role. 

It'll take time for him to settle into his pivot role again, and Dobson said that Willemse's current situation can by no means be attributed to a lack of effort. 

"If there's any error, it's that (him trying too hard). It's certainly not that he doesn't care or doesn't practice, he probably overdoes it and he probably beats himself up too much," Dobson said. 

"He's not paradigm of a mercurial flyhalf who doesn't train hard, who's got a great step and offload and who's not physical. He's overly physical. Another flyhalf like Demitri Catrakilis is never on the ground, Damian is getting tackled five or six times a game, which is a problem for our team's attack, because then Herschel starts looking for him. He's physical. 

"I think there we need to start looking at alternating him and Dillyn at first receiver. Last year he had to and wanted to concentrate on 15. So I'm not too flustered when it comes to the bigger picture because of the workrate he's got." 

Jean-Luc du Plessis, who's walked a rocky road with injuries in recent years, has looked good off the replacements bench so far this season, something that's obviously good for the Stormers, but hasn't made Dobson doubt Willemse at 10.

"The problem for me is more the fact that Jean-Luc has made a difference every single time he's come on. And that's more of a pressure point than any doubts I've got of Damian. Jean-luc is showing much more composure, that last move of his against the Lions (his skip pass that led to a late try) was stellar, so that's more where the pressure is. But I've got no doubts about Gaza (Damian). 

"We're probably underplaying Jean-Luc, we just want get Damian confident and into shape. But Jean-Luc has had his days as well hey. But there's a new-look Jean-Luc out there nowadays, and that's good."

The log-topping Stormers face the Blues at Newlands on Saturday (kick-off 3.05pm). 

@WynonaLouw


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