Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

‘It’s a great celebration,’ as Willemse brings up 50 for Stormers

The utility back will again play in midfield, with Warrick Gelant at fullback for the match against Zebre.

Springbok utility back Damian Willemse is set to make his 50th appearance for the Stormers when they take on Zebre in their United Rugby Championship clash at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch on Sunday.

Willemse is just 23 and having made his debut as an 18-year-old back in 2017, will now bring up an impressive milestone and will hope to celebrate it with a big win against Zebre.

“Time has literally flown. It is a great celebration for me, it’s something that every player strives for. To play 50 games for the Stormers is a big thing and I am just fortunate that the coaches backed me to play over the years and I am looking forward to Sunday,” said Willemse.

“But it’s not really about me. This week has been going very well for the team and the space that we are in. So hopefully we can get some good momentum this weekend after the Connacht match and get another win.”

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Stormers coach John Dobson is also very happy with the growth of Willemse over the years and believes that he has become one of the most important players in the Stormers setup.

“Damian has developed into arguably one of the most professional guys in the team, physically one of the most dominant players we have got and one of the champions of details and general professionalism,” said Dobson.

“Damian is everything and that’s why we are so vociferous in our support and the importance that we place on Damian Willemse in this unit, he epitomises a lot of where we want to be as a team.

“So the way he has developed with his professionalism is remarkable and he is now one of the team leaders and drivers.”

Willemse will be lining up at inside centre once again, with Warrick Gelant back from injury to take his place at fullback, while veteran loose forward Deon Fourie will take over the captaincy in the absence of Steven Kitshoff who is being rested in line with Springbok protocols.

Despite a few changes, the Stormers will be expected to pick up a big bonus point win against the URC whipping boys and they will be aiming to build some good momentum from the match. 

Stormers: Warrick Gelant, Seabelo Senatla, Ruhan Nel, Damian Willemse, Leolin Zas, Manie Libbok, Herschel Jantjies, Evan Roos, Hacjivah Dayimani, Deon Fourie (capt), Marvin Orie, Adre Smith, Neethling Fouche, Scarra Ntubeni, Brok Harris. Bench: Andre-Hugo Venter, Ali Vermaak, Sazi Sandi, Ernst van Rhyn, Junior Pokomela, Paul de Wet, Tim Swiel, Rikus Pretorius

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