Bok coach heaps praise on match-winning star Damian Willemse

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Springbok utility back Damian Willemse.
Springbok utility back Damian Willemse.
Anton Geyser/Gallo Images
  • Damian Willemse made a bold play for a regular Springbok starting berth with a performance of assured calmness and excellence.
  • Willemse shrugged off the poor goalkicking that dogged him at the Stormers to land seven points that contributed to the Springboks' narrow 32-29 win against Wales.
  • Willemse also shifted well between flyhalf and fullback, ensuring that Wales were always kept guessing on defence.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber was full of praise for Damian Willemse's match-winning performance in the 32-29 success against Wales at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday evening.

Willemse started his sixth Test at 15, but with Elton Jantjies having a poor first half, he moved into the dual-pivot role of flyhalf and fullback with a great deal of success in the second period.

Crucially, he assumed the goalkicking duties and nailed crucial kicks, including the match-winning penalty that kept the Springboks' spotless home record against Wales intact.

RECAP | Springboks edge Wales 32-29 after Loftus thriller

Nienaber said after the match that Willemse has been the Bok coaching staff's pet project and they're more than happy that he's finally starting to show his full value.

"I thought Damian did well and like we said during the week, he's a project and he's been one since 2018," Nienaber said.

"We've been slowly giving him more game time, experience, and confidence in our system and what we'd like him to do.

"I said it in the week that he's probably our next Frans Steyn in terms of covering at 10, 12 and 15. He had to cover 10 and 15 and I thought he did it excellently."

Willemse's goalkicking has been the one part of his game that has come under the most intense scrutiny.

The fluctuating nature of that skill-set was such that the Stormers and Western Province were often forced to field inferior flyhalves who could kick better to ensure Willemse's game-breaking skills weren't lost as a result.

MATCH REPORT | Willemse sparks second-half magic to save Boks from embarrassing first home defeat against Wales

"I don't know what the stats are in terms of his goalkicking at the Stormers, but I do have to say that he kicked well," Nienaber said.

"I'm happy."

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