The Sprinboks’ backline flourished with ball-in-hand as Damian Willemse scooped the Player of the Match award against New Zealand for his contributions in the No.15 jersey.
With their World Cup opener just two weeks away, the Springboks can take a lot of confidence from their record win over New Zealand at Twickenham on Friday.
The world champions turned on the magic with the backline and strangled the All Blacks into submission up front to record a 35-7 win in front of about 82,000 supporters at England’s home of rugby.
While it was a performance that was dominated by their forwards, on attack and defence, South Africa’s backline also flourished with ball-in-hand as Damian Willemse scooped the Player of the Match award for his contributions in the No.15 jersey.
The 2019 World Cup winner was secure under the high ball, he sparked the attack alongside flyhalf Manie Libbok and put in an overall performance that will be pleasing to himself and his coaches ahead of France 2023.
Growing up in a tough neighbourhood, Damian Willemse was given an opportunity to attend @PaulRoos_Gym thanks to his exploits on the rugby field, and that was just the beginning for the versatile #Springboks back – watch here: https://t.co/aCsSSNAh5y 💪#StrongerTogether
— Springboks (@Springboks) August 27, 2023
Keep working on fundamentals
“I just need to keep working on my fundamentals, but it was great to get some minutes under the belt,” Willemse said after the All Black clash.
“I definitely got a lot of confidence out of this game. The forwards laid a great platform to attack off. Coach Felix (Jones) and coach Stick (Mzwandile Stick) have been working really hard with me.
“I need to keep on going with the way I am playing, and go back to the drawing board on Monday to see where I can take my game forward.”
Willemse will go into this year’s tournament as one of the Boks with World Cup experience.
But his role in the squad has changed significantly from four years ago, and he will be fulfilling a similar one to that of Frans Steyn, who missed out after retiring due to a serious knee injury. The Stormers utility back can cover fullback, flyhalf and inside centre, which makes him a valuable player in the match-23 – especially when the Boks look to load their Bomb Squad with six forwards.
“Covering three positions comes with a lot of detail,” Willemse added.
“But luckily, I have coaches working with me. They have been working hard on my skill-set. A lot of it comes down to the coaching. I also just try to form many partnerships. I have been trusted with this role, so I don’t have a preference in what position I play. I am just happy that the coaches trust me with that (utility) role.”
He added the Springboks can take some lessons out of their clash with France last year in Marseille when they prepare for their World Cup opener against Scotland at the same venue on September 10.