After Saracens secured the signing of Damian Willemse yesterday as a medical joker, the deal has been seen as one that benefits everyone involved.
The 21-year-old arrives at Allianz Park from Currie Cup outfit Western Province, and will provide cover for the injured Alex Goode and Max Malins for the next three months.
Capable of playing fly-half or fullback, the five-cap Springbok is seen as one of South Africa’s most promising young players, and was unlucky to miss out on Rassie Erasmus’ World Cup squad. This is a player of undoubted class that is joining the European champions, who will not just be simple injury cover, but rather an asset to the team.
Stylistically, Willemse is similar to Goode, and will surely play a similar role to what the European Player of the Year does at Saracens, although the South African perhaps has slightly more pace. Regardless, both are skilful ball players capable of unlocking any defence.
It is no surprise that Saracens fans on social media are excited by this signing, particularly with so many players set to be away for the start of the season at the World Cup. The Premiership season starts in just over a month’s time, so Willemse will cover for the absent internationals, as well as Goode and Malins, and will ensure the reigning Premiership champions make a strong start to their title defence.
However, South African fans are also taking great positives out of this move. As it is now near the end of the South African rugby season, and this is only a short deal, this will provide a great opportunity for the utility back to develop before returning for the next Super Rugby campaign with the Stormers in 2020.
More immediately, however, is the fact that Willemse is likely to be one of the leading players to be called up should there be an injury to any South African player during the World Cup. Remaining active with Saracens will mean he is up to scratch should he need to fly over to Japan.
Ultimately, the most encouraging thing for fans of Willemse is that he is joining one of, if not the best team in the northern hemisphere, who have a reputation for developing players. Willemse only needs to look at the likes of his compatriots Schalk Brits and Vincent Koch as examples of players whose games grew significantly after arriving in north London. For such a young player, this could be a valuable three months.
This is what has been said:
Can’t think of a better club for this gem of a player. His going to thrive at Sarries.
— Carl Lewis (@Carl_LewisZA) September 2, 2019
Willemse is going to be a cracking player. No better club to be for a youngster than at Sarries, even if it's a short term deal. https://t.co/MFg8qehn2X
— Ross Barnett (@rbarnett08) September 2, 2019
Happy for the man, going to do him and his game the world of good. https://t.co/mUZz1YT7J2
— Jono Rauch BXNG ©? (@JonoRauch2) September 2, 2019
This is fantastic for the Boi. Really hoping he can stay fit and develop further at a really great club. https://t.co/utqIETKWtS
— Philasande Sixaba (@psixaba) September 2, 2019
Just a short term deal fortunately. Plenty of the NH clubs are picking up 'World Cup Jokers' and honestly it benefits us hugely! Our players stay active during RWC while our leagues are on hold and come back fit and firing for S15 preseason.
— Alex Tarr (@alexthetarr) September 2, 2019
This is huge for Damian! https://t.co/6LTwVwUVK1
— Andrew Abrahams (@Apie_Abrahams) September 2, 2019
Superb talent , real ball skills and will set things alight with his step.
— duke (@dunxxB) September 2, 2019
This is a proper signing from SA, a real talent!
Probably the best young player going around South Africa, Australia, New Zealand at the moment.
— wadesgotit (@wadesgotit) September 3, 2019
The only downside of this deal from Saracens’ perspective is that they could lose Willemse should he be called up to the Springboks. If not, a versatile player like this could prove to be crucial at the beginning of the season.
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