Damian Willemse in motion. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)
- Damian Willemse has responded to curiosity about his position(s) in the Stormers squad.
- The discussion around his inside center and full-back positions has largely been left to spectators and commentators.
- Willemse, however, would not answer which position he prefers, saying only that his efforts will always benefit the team.
Manufacturer of Stormers and Springbok players Damien Willemse was finally able to address the issue around his position, which again became a moot point.
Conversations, or guesswork, around Willemse’s so-called ‘best position’ have often been left to spectators and analysts to speak out, with coaches also only happy to entertain the subject when asked. – often with mixed success.
His status as a utility back was ranked at 10, sparking hotly contested debate over his 15-year-old strength and sparking excitement for a 12th-place finish.
Fortunately for supporters of these categories, Willemse has played in all three at different levels in his career. This weekend will be his 50th game for the Stormers, most likely aged 12, with Gelant likely to return from injury to wear the number 15 shirt.
The twists and turns of his position still didn’t leave most of them the wiser and his candor sparked the curiosity of the question when at first he usurped in-form Warrick Gelant at the back, only to then join Gelant at 12, weeks later in a backline that had watchers excited for the fireworks the two would produce.
Willemse and co are preparing for a clash against Zebre on Sunday at Stellenbosch and when the 23-year-old faced the media it was clear what was on everyone’s mind.
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There wasn’t the clearest indication the fly-half prospect had been dropped, but Willemse entertained both positions he plays – inside center and fullback.
“A lot of people say I should settle into a role, but I appreciate the responsibility the coaches have given me. Some people might see it as a negative, but I try to be as positive as possible,” Willemse says Wednesday.
“I’m as open-minded as possible about roles.”
He said the enjoyment was also due to having learned a lot from the Springboks and that he saw it as a way to develop his skills.
“I’ve made a lot of progress in my game. I look at it from the perspective of improving my skills.”
Side entrance | It’s time to give Willemse the space he’s always looking for
He sees his Swiss army knife role as contributing as much as he can to the team.
“It’s an advantage for the team,” Willemse said, before deftly dodging a question about settling into a position. When questioned, he gave an answer that indicated his incognito position was something for the foreseeable future.
“I wouldn’t say it’s about settling a position…I think it’s going to be between those two positions and it’s been fine so far.”
For his part and after Willemse’s – literally – strong performance against Connacht a fortnight ago, head coach John Dobson said “it’s a tough performance at 12 for us to ignore”, suggesting he could be held there when the team is announced later this week.
The unknown Danie Craven Stadium will host the United Rugby Championship game on Sunday, kicking off at 6.05pm.