Super Rugby

Willemse needs more than flair to be world-class No 10

Cape Town - 2020 will be Damian Willemse's most important season yet as he looks to cash in on his obvious talent and become a world-class flyhalf. 

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That is the view of Stormers coach John Dobson ahead of Saturday's Super Rugby opener against the Hurricanes at Newlands. 

Willemse, still just 21-years-old, is one of the brightest attacking prospects in South African rugby. 

A killer side-step, skill with ball in hand, natural pace and dynamic distribution are all part of the reason that Willemse' future is considered brighter than most. 

He is already a World Cup winner having replaced the injured Jesse Kriel during the triumphant 2019 tournament in Japan, but he has been seen more as a fullback at that level with both of his Test starts to date coming in the No 15 jersey. 

At Newlands this year, though, Willemse is being packed exclusively as a flyhalf and he has an opportunity to out-perform the likes of Elton Jantjies at the Lions and Curwin Bosch at the Sharks. 

While the attacking flair is encouraged by Dobson, he acknowledged on Thursday that Willemse's struggles at flyhalf are centred more around game management and executing plans. 

"This is definitely his most important season," Dobson said.

"His big issue and what he needs to develop on is game management. It's half the reason Jamie Roberts is here."

Roberts, a 97-Test veteran for Wales and the British & Irish Lions, will debut in the No 12 jersey alongside Willemse and he has been tasked with bringing an experienced, composed approach to proceedings while investing time in the likes of Willemse and 23-year-old scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies. 

"You never want to box Gaza (Willemse) in in terms of attack and seeing opportunities because that's the x-factor that he's got." Dobson added.

"We expect him to fit the pattern completely on defence and with exits and running certain starters there is not much room for negotiation, but from broken play he's got license to thrill.

"If he wants to be a world class flyhalf, and undoubtedly he has the talent, he needs to learn that.

"I thought he did that really well at Super Hero Day by keeping us going forward. There were some really clever kicks.

"I think this is the year that makes him.

"We want him to play flyhalf and he wanted to a while ago, but he's got to prove that he can step up and be the international 10."

Willemse's opposite number on Saturday will be 24-year-old Fletcher Smith.

Kick-off is at 15:05.



15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Siya Kolisi, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Johan du Toit, 22 Godlen Masimla, 23 Rikus Pretorius


15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Fletcher Smith, 9 TJ Perenara (captain), 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Fraser Armstrong

Substitutes: 16 Asafo Auma, 17 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18 Tevita Mafileo, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Devan Flanders, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Vince Aso

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