Home Sport Damian Willemse’s versatility key to his Springbok success

Damian Willemse’s versatility key to his Springbok success


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.

Damian Willemse of South Africa celebrates scoring his sides eighth try with team-mates Jesse Kriel & Canan Moodie during the Summer Nations Series 2023, Rugby Union Friendly match between Wales and South Africa on 19 August 2023 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales
Damian Willemse (right) celebrates scoring a try with teammates Jesse Kriel (centre) and Canan Moodie (left) . Picture: Simon King/ProSportsImages/DPPI via AFP

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.

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.


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