Sibusiso Mjikeliso – Sport24
A mercurial talent like Damian Willemse should easily have a place in a 15-man game, but why is his best position still a topic of hot conjecture and is he losing ground on his contemporaries because of it?
Activities in the transfer market didn’t only affect the players who chose to opt out of their existing contracts before Thursday night’s close of the 21-day window, but also had significant impact on where Willemse’s best position will be for the Stormers and Springboks in future.
Regular fullback Dillyn Leyds and flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis have been confirmed that they are departing Cape Town, while Welshman Jamie Roberts seems to have played his last cameo for the Stormers, which leaves Willemse with the option of three positions being at his disposal.
When the now voided Super Rugby season began Stormers coach John Dobson was certain that Willemse would be given time and ample opportunity to settle at flyhalf after spending most of his post-high school career oscillating between No 10 and No 15, with the occasional game at first centre.
The pendulum swung again, though, after Willemse had a poor game against the Blues at Newlands, which the Stormers lost 33-14, and was shipped off to fullback the following match against the Sharks in Durban.
Dobson, a coach who is well versed at what it takes to develop fledgling talents, seemed to second guess his own decision to nail Willemse down at pivot. The pressure that came with the shock defeat to the Blues at home probably played a lot in the coach’s mind but the move deprived the 22-year-old, and onlookers, of the chance for him to measure himself against his peer Curwin Bosch.
Bosch, 22, who was also tossed around different position by previous coaches, landed in Sean Everitt’s hands champing at the bit to impress at 10. And he did.
SA Under-20 assistant coach Bafana Nhleko, who saw Willemse close up at the 2018 World Rugby Under-20 Championships, says consistency in one position is the only cure to the uncertainty.
“For a player like him, who is obviously multi-skilled, he needs that consistent game time in one position,” says Nhleko.
“Every position has a certain requirement and the more you play in it, the more you start focusing on the skills required to play there.