Damian Willemse in action against the Lions during their Super Rugby Unlocked clash. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
Damian Willemse in action against the Lions during their Super Rugby Unlocked clash. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Game management isn’t bought at Checkers ... but Damian Willemse growing

By Wynona Louw Time of article published Oct 19, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - Stormers coach John Dobson says he was really pleased with flyhalf Damian Willemse’s performance in their 23-17 Super Rugby Unlocked win against the Lions at Newlands on Saturday.

While the team performance isn’t one that will go down as one of the Stormers’ finest outings (it was quite poor, actually), there were a number of solid individual ones, and for Dobson, Willemse was one of them, especially looking at the difference between his productions at the weekend compared to the Springbok Showdown.

Collectively, the Stormers’ handling was far from superb in the first half as they made a number of handling errors and, overall, when they were without the ball, their defence could also have held up better at times. On attack, there is no doubt that Dobson would be happy with some more continuity.

But the fact that this was their first competitive game - while the Lions came off the back of a nail-biting contest at Kings Park the previous week - would certainly also have played a role in how undercooked they looked in that first 40.

They did well to fight back, however, as they came back from a 6-9 deficit at halftime to score two tries and a penalty conversion in the second half.

On Willemse’s performance, Dobson said: “Credit to Damian Willemse, I think you guys would all agree.

He went from that horrible experience two weeks ago to today, so I’m really pleased for him. I’m actually a bit sorry that he moved (to fullback) because I wanted him to build an innings and he was going really nicely at flyhalf, so it’s a pity that happened.

“The change (with Willemse shifting to No 15 when Sergeal Petersen left the field with injury and Tim Swiel came in at 10) was disruptive to Damian. We were going well with him at 10, I’m pleased with his progress.

“There is still work to be done but as I was saying to someone the other day - game management isn’t something you can go get in the gym or overnight, it comes with experience and he’s a 22-year-old flyhalf who hasn’t spent a lot of time at flyhalf and who has been moved around a lot.

“You can’t go to Checkers and buy it (game management), it’s being in a seat and having the chance to make those decisions, and I think we’ve seen growth already.

“Damian and Herschel (Jantjies) could become the (George) Gregan and (Stephen) Larkham or whatever you want to call it of South African rugby, and those guys were only dominating world rugby at 26, 27.

“So we’ve just got to develop him as best we can.”

With regards to injury, Dobson said that Petersen, who had just returned from a hamstring niggle that saw him withdraw from the Springbok Showdown, would be out for quite a while with a quadriceps tear, while he added that Willemse should be good to go for their next match after he went down with injury towards the end of Saturday’s game.


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