WATCH: I hope Damian Willemse gets his rugby right at the Stormers, says Jake White
CAPE TOWN – Damian Willemse may be the one that got away for the Bulls, but that doesn’t mean he will get extra attention as the Stormers fullback in tonight’s showdown at Loftus Versfeld.
Bulls coach Jake White made it clear that he wanted to sign the Springbok utility back, and even spoke about a potential backline featuring Willemse at No 15 and Johan Goosen at flyhalf.
“It’s no secret – we are looking at Damian Willemse, who can play cover 10, 12 and 15. Johan Goosen is coming and he can play 10 and 12 and 15. There is nothing that stops us from playing Embrose at nine, Goosen at 10, Cornal at 12, Stedman at 13, Damian Willemse at 15 – it’s a hell of a backline, if you think about it. Kurt-Lee Arendse on the wing, Stravino on the other wing… The permutations of picking different sorts of backlines, it just depends on who you’re getting,” the former Bok boss said recently.
But last week Friday, the Stormers announced that the 22-year-old had signed a three-year contract extension to remain in Cape Town. “Committed to the club… Super happy and excited to extend my time in Cape Town. Grateful for my journey so far and I am excited to see what the next chapter holds for this group,” Willemse wrote on Instagram.
“We will give it everything to ensure we bring joy to the New Stadium and our supporters. Thank you for your continuous support. I appreciate it sincerely #ontothenext”
On Thursday, ahead of the preparation match between the Bulls and Stormers at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night (7pm kickoff), White said there was no bad blood between him and Willemse.
“Everybody’s got to make decisions in life, and I respect his decision. He’s made it clear he likes the lifestyle in Cape Town, and he’s happy there. I wish him all the best – there’s no hard feelings. He is a good rugby player – that’s why we were chasing him,” the Bulls director of rugby said.
“But at the same time, you want people who want to come and play at Loftus for the Bulls. If his heart is not set in it… He signed for three years, so I hope that he gets his rugby right, because we all know he’s talented.”
One player White has brought to Pretoria, Zak Burger, gets his first chance to stake a claim for the No 9 jersey tonight, with Ivan van Zyl leaving Loftus for Saracens at the end of June.
The former Griquas captain was a stand-out player in Kimberley with his quick thinking and ability to take on the defence, and White wants him to continue in that vein against the Stormers.
“There is no doubt when he was at Griquas, he was definitely the guy that everyone was watching. I’m just expecting the same. I expect him to make an impact – I’ve given him free rein and I have told him that is why we signed him. Very quick, he’s got a very good rugby brain,” White said.
“First time he’s played behind this sort of pack, and I’m just expecting him to do what he’s good at. I told him don’t worry, just have a go and let’s see what happens. We will do analysis afterwards.”