Cape Town — When Damian Willemse stepped on to the Super Rugby stage in 2017, he made an almost immediate impact.
Stormers fans were immediately struck by his natural, instinctive skill-set and his pace off the mark.
Willemse very quickly began to manufacture a reputation for himself as one of South African rugby’s brightest young prospects, and it is difficult to believe that he is still just 20-years-old.
2018 was a breakthrough year for the Paul Roos product, with Stormers coach Robbie Fleck having played him at flyhalf for much of the Super Rugby campaign.
Particularly in the first half of the season, Willemse provided encouraging signs as a playmaker at a time when South African rugby was desperate for individuals who could deliver an attacking brand after two dismal years under former Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.
Willemse, it seemed, had all the ingredients.
That honeymoon period is now over for the youngster, and the rigours of playing and training week in and week out are setting in.
The Stormers have had a difficult start to Super Rugby 2019 with six of their eight matches so far being played away from home, including a four-match Australasian tour.
Along the way, Willemse has slotted into fullback – a position he now seems destined to occupy for some time.
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has said numerous times that he views Willemse as a No 15 and that, if he goes to the World Cup in Japan this year, he will go as cover for Willie le Roux.
While Willemse possesses an undeniable x-factor, that part of his game has had to sometimes be put on hold for the Stormers this year.
He is no longer the new kid on the block, and as a result opposing teams are mindful of what he can do, and they prepare accordingly.
Instead, Willemse has had to put in the hard graft in 2019 with a strong focus on being dominant in the air and kicking accurately.
“It’s going good. I’m happy,” Willemse told media at the Stormers’ Bellville training complex on Monday.
“Coach Dave (Snyman) has helped me a lot now over the last month, especially in my counter attacks and kicking game. I’m feeling positive and enjoying it.”
While Willemse acknowledges that he will always want to play at flyhalf, he knows that performing at fullback is part of a bigger plan for both the Stormers and the Springboks.
“I’m really happy to be playing at No 15,” he said.
“I’m just trying to do my extras every day and keep reviewing my game. I’m just trying to play well.
“After playing a couple of seasons the guys get to know you, so I’m just trying to keep my confidence up.
“I’m settling into the No 15 role and in the last couple of games it went really well, and I think I’m starting to find something now.
“It’s not going to happen overnight, and I know it isn’t going to be easy.”
The Stormers are next in action when they host the Brumbies at Newlands at 15:05 .
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Publish date : 2019-04-16 14:35:25