Willemse gets his chance to shine with Stormers
REACTION: Young flyhalf Damian Willemse will get a chance to show what he is made of at Super Rugby level when the Stormers take on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday. Warren Fortune reports.
The 19-year-old will make his first start for the Cape side at the Free State Stadium after recently representing the Junior Boks at the Under-20 World Championship in Georgia.
With first-choice flyhalves Jean-Luc du Plessis and Robert du Preez out for the rest of the Super Rugby season, Willemse could cement his place in the starting side during the next three weeks leading up to the play-offs.
"Damian is a youngster in our system who's done phenomenally well over the past 12 months," said Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck.
"It is quite freakish to think that he was playing schoolboy rugby last year. He had a very good pre-season for us. We've been grooming him for an opportunity this year. He obviously played well for SA Under-20s as well.
"Going into the backend of the competition we feel this is the perfect opportunity for us to have a look at him in the starting position and we are certainly excited to see how he goes."
After testing Dillyn Leyds in the No.10 role in the win against the Blues and then Kurt Coleman in the loss against the Sharks, Fleck is eager to see if Willemse has the big-match temperament with the play-offs drawing nearer.
"We want to have a look at him. He has come off the bench for us and he has played in the pre-season, but we groomed him in other positions and played him a little bit at fullback and a little bit at flyhalf - he played a bit at 12 for SA U20s.
"We need to have a look at our options going forward. Kurt [Coleman] played in the last game against the Sharks and we know what we got in [Brandon] Thomson.
"Obviously Rob [Robert du Preez] and JL [Jean-Luc du Plessis] are out, so we've had a go with Dillyn against the Blues and we were quite satisfied with his performance there.
"It is allowing him [Willemse] an opportunity, but it is also and opportunity for us to see if we can go into the latter part of the competition with him," Fleck added.
Willemse will also have some experienced players around him to take some of the pressure off.
"Having Jano Vermaak on his inside and then both [Shaun] Treeby and then Juan de Jongh [on the outside], it certainly makes a difference. "Also with SP [Sarel] Marais at the back with his left boot and his decisions. It is their role to take the pressure off Damian.
"I think if Damian is given that green light to play his natural game, I think he could be quite dangerous for us, but certainly those guys have a big role to play in order to free him up," said Fleck.
By Warren Fortune