Stormers coach hopes Damian Willemse can ’silence haters’ after performance against Cheetahs
CAPE TOWN - Stormers coach John Dobson says he hopes flyhalf Damian Willemse’s “magnificent” performance in their Super Rugby Unlocked win over the Cheetahs will be enough to “silence the haters”.
Willemse – who copped a lot of flak over the last few weeks, going all the way back to the Springbok Green versus Gold game – was superb for the hosts at Newlands in their last game playing as the Stormers at the iconic venue. He hit his target every single time he set up the kicking tee, while his kicking from hand was also superb. And then there was that brilliant offload that set up their last try through Warrick Gelant. Overall, Willemse contributed 15 points in the form of three conversions, two penalties and a massive drop-goal.
In a match the Stormers won 30-13 – which took them to second on the standings, behind the Bulls in top spot, with one match remaining – the 22-year-old controlled the game and directed play well, and properly showed the kind of influence he can have, especially seeing as he didn’t take on such an overly “involved” role on Saturday when it came to getting stuck in elsewhere ... like at the rucks. He did his duties, and he did them very well, while he still contributed some physicality with some hard hits.
While there were a few times where Willemse probably didn’t make things easy for himself (like with a couple of straightforward kicks at goal he missed), to say that he has been terrible since rugby returned would be greatly exaggerated. Perhaps the only game where he could really not dispute any criticism was the Green and Gold match (although the way his pack struggled in that game wouldn’t have made his job any easier).
After their penultimate game, Dobson praised Willemse for what he did against the Cheetahs.
“The graph over the last three weeks has been steadily upwards. Hopefully, slowly, we can silence the haters because I thought he was really magnificent tonight,” Dobson said.
“His game control ... I don’t know what it looked like on TV, but that was probably the most physical game of rugby we’ve played this year, and that’s credit to the Cheetahs, it was really a tough game. So, to have him in that sort of pressure and performing like that made me very happy.”
On the injury front, Dobson confirmed that regular captain and loose forward Siya Kolisi is well on his way back and should be available within the next two weeks, while wing Seabelo Senatla and loose forward Jaco Coetzee are also recovering well. Wing Sergeal Petersen has a couple of weeks of recovery left, while loose forward Nama Xaba is still going to be out for a while.The Stormers will face the Sharks in their final Super Rugby Unlocked game at Kings Park this Saturday. These two sides are the only teams that are still, realistically, in the running to overtake the Bulls and win the first part of the domestic competition.