Springbok utility defender Damian Willemse is ready to take on the role of the “new Frans Stein” after being named defender for the first Test against Wales at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Willemse has mostly been used as an inside center for the Stormers during the United Rugby Championship’s recent campaign, but he’s just as adept at linebacker or fullback and Bok’s management are a big fan of his versatility.
Coach Jacques Ninaber explained on Tuesday command announcement that Willemse was the preferred candidate for the role occupied in recent years by Frans Stein.
“I played several positions with the Stormers: 10, 12 and 15, and even once with the Sharks I played on the wing,” Willems said.
“So it’s definitely a skill set that I’ve been training on and working with coaches for a few years and I really like it.”
Playing at fullback in the first Test against Wales, Willemse will be looking to make his mark. Willy le Roux on the bench, while uniformed players such as Warrick Gelant and Afelele Fassi are waiting for their chance.
“I am happy to be back at fullback. I think the last time I played there was in the regular season against the Blue Bulls,” said Willemse, who will make a rare start for Boxing, earning most of his 12 caps from the bench.
“Obviously in the last few years I haven’t had many starts with Willy (le Roux) and a good game. So for me this weekend it’s not about desperation, it’s about stepping out and doing my part.
“Put forwards and team in good places and win the battle for territory. Obviously I would like to play really well, but by saying I just have to do my part and what is required of me this weekend and the rest I think will follow.”
Willemse is also more than willing to move to midfield or center if necessary during a game, although that will depend on the coaches.
“There’s always a chance of getting hurt and if Elton (Yantjis) falls I can cover 10, 12 while Willie can also come in and run very well into the first receiver and run after those containers,” Willems said.
“But in the end it will depend on what the coaches decide if it happens.”