Dobson explains Willemse shift to No 12

Josh Stander (Gallo)
Josh Stander (Gallo)

Cape Town - The coaches have played their cards, and the sides have been named for Saturday's Currie Cup final at Newlands. 

There were no major surprises in Sharks coach Robert du Preez's team selection - Aphelele Fassi starting on the wing is one, perhaps - but there was an immediately noticeable call from Western Province boss John Dobson. 

Damian Willemse, who has been backed as a fullback by Bok coach Rassie Erasmus and who started last weekend's semi-final against the Blue Bulls at flyhalf, will start the Currie Cup final in the No 12 jersey. 

It is not a position he is unfamiliar with - he played there in the 2017 Junior World Cup - but it did come as somewhat of a shock to see him named there on Thursday. 

On the surface, it is a big call from Dobson. 

The thinking behind the shift, though, is centred around Province's kicking game. 

Dobson was not happy with how his side, and Willemse, executed their kicks in the extra-time thriller against the Bulls. 

With Josh Stander now back at flyhalf, where he has thrived all Currie Cup while Willemse has been on Bok duty, the coach is banking on a more accurate and consistent kicking performance. 

Willemse, with some of the niftiest feet in South African rugby right now, did not deliver in the out-of-hand kicking department against the Bulls. 

Where Willemse attacks the line with pace and makes decisions on instinct at times, Stander stands a little deeper and weighs up his options. 

In finals rugby, game management will always be key, and that is what Dobson is hoping Stander brings to Newlands on Saturday.

"What we saw last week was Damian hitting the line at full speed and we struggled to get outside of their rush," Dobson explained.

"To ask him to boss the game was a big ask."

Dobson says that allowing Willemse to go "flat out" this weekend at No 12 might get more out for the team. 

Is it a risk, changing things up in such a key position for a game as big as this? Dobson doesn't think so.

"I don't see it as a risk. I think it would have been more a risk if we had carried on like we were," Dobson said.

"It's been made clear to Damian that his international short-term future is at fullback.

"Josh has got a lot of experience and I think the team feels safe with him."

The Sharks, with Fassi (20) on one wing, 22-year-old Bok S'Bu Nkosi on the other and Curwin Bosch (21) at fullback, do have a young back three. 

Kicking at those players is a window that Dobson has identified but adding Stander will also give Province more in the way of clearing their own lines.

"We felt that the Sharks were going to be territory based so we wanted to have some more fire-power there. Damian coming in at No 12 gives us an extra kicking option," he said.

"We'll certainly be looking to put the ball up because Sergeal (Petersen), SP (Marais) and Dillyn (Leyds) are so good in the air, whether it's defending or attacking. We're very aware that they are going to want to play rugby in our half.

"We've been planning a lot about how we're going to exit our half and put them under pressure. It doesn't help, like last week, when we hack it down the middle of the field and have to defend the whole width of the field."

It wasn't by design, but because of the extra time development in the semi-final, Willemse ended up playing 45 minutes at centre against the Blue Bulls after Stander came on. 

Province got the job done in that heated encounter, and they will be hoping to do the same against the Sharks when it matters most. 

Kick-off is at 16:00.


Western Province

15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 SP Marais, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak

Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Dan Kriel, 23 JJ Engelbrecht


15 Curwin Bosch, 14 S'bu Nkosi, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Tyler Paul, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Juan Schoeman 

Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Jacques Vermeulen, 20 Luke Stringer, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Kobus van Wyk, 23 Leolin Zas

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