One of 2018’s biggest talking points in local rugby will remain big in 2019 too: where will Damian Willemse play?
The gifted 20-year-old playmaker impressed for much of this year’s Super Rugby campaign by coping well with the demands of being the Stormers’ first-choice flyhalf.
But the second part of his year was dominated by his various coaches deploying him in different positions, with mixed results.
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus, however, has reiterated on numerous occasions that Willemse’s immediate international future is at fullback.
And by all accounts, the youngster is keen to don the No 15 jersey.
Yet it’s no guarantee he’ll play there consistently for the Stormers next year.
“He’s quite keen to give fullback a crack, but the team will come first and whatever position we need him at, we will play him,” said franchise coach Robbie Fleck.
While it sounds rather counterproductive, Willemse has been briefed on that fact.
“He understands that. He’s a wonderfully talented player and it’s our responsibility as the Stormers and as coaches to look after him and develop him.”
Fleck noted that the Stormers will need to balance national interest with their own needs for the tournament, though that might prove tough at times.
“We’ll try and help out SA Rugby as much as we can, but it will be ‘Stormers first’, and the players understand that,” he said.
“I thought Damian had a wonderful season last season at flyhalf, but with Jean-Luc du Plessis coming back to full fitness at flyhalf and with the success of Josh Stander at Currie Cup level, there is healthy competition.”