Another week and yet another new position for Damian Willemse.
The gifted 20-year-old certainly has been granted opportunities to show his versatility in recent weeks and will slot in at inside centre for Western Province in Saturday’s Currie Cup final against the Sharks at Newlands.
Given the magnitude of the occasion, this move from coach John Dobson is eye-catching.
Conservative observers might even say it’s an unnecessary risk to take, especially since Willemse made his mark at 10 for the Stormers earlier this year and has been told he’s a fullback at international level by national mentor Rassie Erasmus.
However, Dobson is known as a frank, insightful coach and, rather convincingly, argues that this switch is actually designed to protect his prized asset and bring out the best in him.
“I really don’t see it as a risk,” he said on Thursday.
“We’d be more at risk if we carried on with him at flyhalf and I’ll tell you why. It’s been made clear to Damian that in the short-term, he’s going to be a fullback for the Boks.
“When you’re a fullback, you’re asked to carry the ball at full speed. What we saw last week against the Bulls is Damian carrying at full speed but from No 10. As a result, we struggled to get outside of their rush defence. To ask him to boss the pivot position with a new scrumhalf he hasn’t played with is really a big ask.”
Instead, the fact that Willemse can play deeper as a 12 and not necessarily be the first guy to take contact allows him more freedom.
“I actually feel this is a safer option. He has played 12 before and he did so last week for 45 minutes,” said Dobson.
“Damian can go flat out and adds something on defence too.”
Western Province: Dillyn Leyds, Sergeal Petersen, Ruhan Nel, Damian Willemse, SP Marais, Josh Stander, Jano Vermaak, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Ernst van Rhyn, Kobus van Dyk, JD Schickerling, Chris van Zyl (c), Wilco Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, Ali Vermaak. Bench: Scarra Ntubeni, Caylib Oosthuizen, Michael Kumbirai, Salmaan Moerat, Jaco Coetzee, Herscel Jantjies, Dan Kriel, JJ Engelbrecht.