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The unfair criticism being levelled at a rising star of South African rugby

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Stormers head coach John Dobson believes some of the criticism levelled at Damian Willemse is unfair – reports Warren Fortune for Rugby 365. 


The 21-year-old was given the flyhalf responsibilities this season, but he failed to live up to expectations with several inconsistent performances.

Willemse had the No.10 jersey for the first five games of his team’s Super Rugby campaign this year before he was moved to fullback for their match against the Sharks – ahead of Super Rugby’s COVID-19-enforced suspension.

His last game at flyhalf before the move back to fullback was a shocker against the Blues, when the Stormers were outplayed and lost 14-33 at Newlands.

There has been a lot of debate about whether Willemse is flyhalf or fullback and it was a question that came up again in a video conference with the Stormers coach.

“What people are seeing with Damian, and by his own admission, is some poor kicks to touch and that is now equating to a bad game,” said Dobson.

“I chatted to two guys who have coached at international level and they think he is pretty solid [at flyhalf].


“I think where we made an error is when he returns counter-attacks. He is often on the ground and that puts us under pressure after we return the kick and with the amount of kicking in Super Rugby it is a problem for us.”

Despite his performances at No.10, Dobson is not ready to throw in the towel.

“I have spoken to Damian directly about where he wants to play and he doesn’t mind and I have spoken to the national coach.

“He will still be in the frame at flyhalf when we resume.”



Meanwhile, the Stormers squad are spending their lockdown working hard to improve physically, technically and mentally through a highly-specialised remote training programme.

Dobson said that the players are responding well to the programme that has been put in place, doing everything they can to improve while in lockdown.

“We tailored individual programmes, but we had to bear in mind their environment. A guy like Johan du Toit is on a farm and somebody can throw a ball to him, it is obviously different to Chris van Zyl, who is the only guy in the squad living by himself.

“There is the fitness stuff, which is daily reporting, they have each got their own work-ons in terms of their technical skills. Then each coach is sending out video drills and then each player has to send that drill back on video.

“They have also got technical projects like analysing our game and the opposition teams, trends in world rugby.

“Then lastly a bit of fun, they are divided into groups and each group is competing with each other for things like post of the day or fitness drill of the day.”

Rugby 365


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