Damian Willemse's Cape future still in doubt as Bulls keep up the hunt

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Damian Willemse
Damian Willemse
Carl Fourie/Gallo Images
  • The Bulls are still actively hunting the signature of Damian Willemse as his future at the Stormers remains in doubt.
  • Negotiations are still ongoing, but the influence of the franchise's joint majority shareholder, Remgro, could prove crucial.
  • Bulls mentor Jake White is a longstanding admirer of the 22-year-old playmaker.

Despite reports of the Stormers remaining confident about their ability to get their Springboks to re-commit to the franchise, the tug-of-war for Damian Willemse's signature continues. 

The 22-year-old playmaker has been a longstanding target for the Bulls, who apparently value his utility value with a European future in mind and could be considered a long-term successor to veteran Gio Aplon at fullback.

Jake White, the franchise's director of rugby, again raised the possibility of Willemse packing his bags for Pretoria while, interestingly, discussing the future of Clinton Swart, who has largely been out-of-favour at Loftus due to other backs seizing their opportunities.

Teams:

Pumas:

15 Devon Williams, 14 Morne Joubert, 13 Sebastian de Klerk, 12 Ali Mgijima, 11 Tapiwa Mafura, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Kwanda Dimaza, 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Pieter Jansen van Vuren (captain), 4 Brandon Valentyn, 3 Ig Prinsloo, 2 AJ le Roux, 1 Morgan Naude

Substitutes: 16 HP van Schoor, 17 Dewald Maritz, 18 Ruan Kramer, 19 Michael Benadie, 20 Dian Badenhorst, 21 Eddie Fouche, 22 Erich Cronje, 23 Darrien Landsberg

Bulls:

15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marnus Potgieter, 12 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 WJ Steenkamp, 7 Tim Agaba, 6 Nizaam Carr (captain), 5 Janko Swanepoel, 4 Jan Uys, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Joe van Zyl, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp

Substitutes: 16 Janco Uys, 17 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 18 Nolan Pienaar, 19 Reinhardt Ludwig, 20 Werner Gouws, 21 Bernard van der Linde, 22 Clinton Swart, 23 Richard Kriel

"If you consider we could get Damian and Johan Goosen, what are the chance that you're going to use Clinton as a 10 or 12 above those two players and Chris Smith. It's probably unlikely," he said.

"It's no secret we're looking at Damian. He's played 10, 12 and 15 at Super Rugby level and for the Springboks. Johan's coming in and he can play in those positions.

"Ideally, we're looking at a couple of high-profile players in those slots. There's nothing stopping us [in an ideal situation] of playing a decision-making group of Embrose (Papier) at 9, Goosen at 10, Cornal (Hendricks) and Stedman (Gans) in the centres and Damian at 15. 

"That's a helluva backline in theory."

Sport24 has confirmed that negotiations are ongoing.

It's understood that the Bulls' joint majority shareholder along with Patrice Motsepe, Remgro, could become a decisive factor in convincing Willemse given his association with the Rupert family.

Johann Rupert, one of South Africa's most prominent businessmen, is the chairperson of Remgro and it was his daughter, Caroline, who provided Willemse with a bursary to attend Paul Roos Gymnasium.

On a broader level, White believes the constrained local player market is opening up due to the excitement of playing in PRO Rugby, allowing local franchises to more realistically target top players.

"The market is open to getting those sort of players," said the Bulls mentor.

"I think everyone appreciates that we're trying to create a really talented group of players here at the Bulls."

The Bulls' next game in the preparation series is against the Pumas in Nelspruit on Tuesday.

Kick-off is at 19:00.    

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