Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Willemse and Feinberg-Mngomezulu in line for Stormers flyhalf berth

Snyman was quick to point out the similarities between young Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Willemse.

Damian Willemse and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu are primed to step into the boots of Manie Libbok when the Stormers take on Clermont in their final Champions Cup pool stage match at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night.

Libbok has been ruled out of the match after being concussed in last week’s win over London Irish in Brentford, opening the door for Willemse or Feinberg Mngomezulu to step into the breach.

Willemse featured extensively at flyhalf for the Springboks last year, but he has barely played in the position for the Stormers over the past season and a half, while Feinberg-Mngomezulu has also been preferred in midfield or at fullback so far.

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When Libbok went off in the first half against London Irish, Feinberg-Mngomezulu replaced him but struggled to adjust, which saw him switch places with Willemse who was playing fullback, and that seemed to stabilise the team.

However, both are in contention for the starting berth this weekend according to Stormers assistant coach Dawie Snyman, who is eager to see the team’s depth tested in the position.

 “At some stage we’ll probably have to play or operate without him (Libbok), so I think it’s maybe a good time to see our other possibilities there,” said Snyman.

“It might happen in the week of a quarter-final, semi-final or a final when he’s not available, so it’s a great challenge for us as a squad and whoever steps into that position.”

Striking similarities

Snyman was also quick to point out the similarities between young Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Willemse, with the two both being utility backs who have started their careers in a similar way.

“It’s almost spot-on in terms of comparison. If I look at Sacha where he is now and where Damian started with us at the age of 19. They’re players of great composure and guys who can play in big games,” explained Snyman.

“Sacha played that (United Rugby Championship) quarter-final against Edinburgh coming on at 12. Damian won a Currie Cup at 19. Composure is one thing but also their physicality is similar. Sacha is also quite abrasive, likes tackling, likes taking the ball up. There is also their versatility.

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“Both Sacha and Damian have a rugby brain, where they understand the game and different positions and what is required. So it’s something we want to develop, having multiple decision-makers on the field and guys who can take the ball at first receiver,” he added.

“Having experienced guys (like Willemse) being around a younger guy also helps a lot.”

In a boost to the Stormers ahead of the weekend Evan Roos could be in line to make his return, after he was injured playing for the Springboks against England in November last year.

“Evan is looking good, he was at home training the last two weeks and I think he’s doing his final test tomorrow, but he’s looking good,” said Snyman.