Damian Willemse relishing new Stormers approach

Damian Willemse of the DHL Stormers during a training session at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town on April 14 2019.
Damian Willemse of the DHL Stormers during a training session at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town on April 14 2019.
Image: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Stormers fullback Damian Willemse believes that the team’s shift from a tight game to a more rounded approach where he and his fellow backline division are able to play more creatively is starting to pay off.

The Stormers spent the first part of the 2019 Super Rugby campaign relying on set pieces and rolling mauls as their main attacking weapon.

With a Springbok-laden pack‚ it wasn’t a surprise.

But on their second game of their recent tour against the Blues‚ there was a notable shift in mindset to bring their dangerous runners such as Willemse‚ Dillyn Leyds and Sergeal Petersen into the game.

It didn't immediately pay off as they lost to the Blues and the Reds‚ but last week they scored five tries against Australian pacesetters the Rebels to secure their first overseas win in two years.

It has set the Stormers up nicely for this weekend’s clash against the Brumbies at Newlands.

“As a team we have also looked to be more attacking after opponents starting analysing us and realising we mostly played with the forwards‚” Willemse said.

“The Blues game was a turning point because we realised that spreading the ball worked. We have the right players to do it‚ and right now we have found a balance with mauls and set pieces.

“On tour we made it difficult for ourselves‚ losing some games we should have won. Now it’s important we back up the Rebels game with a win at home. We have six home games to come and have to make them count.

“The Brumbies have a good forward pack and elusive backs – guys like Tevita Kuridrani‚ Henry Speight and Christian Lealiifano – they have speed and hard running backs.

"They are skilled and can do just about anything with the ball.

“David Pocock is a danger and will slow ball down so our forwards are going to have to be up for it.”

Willemse‚ who was a schoolboy star at flyhalf‚ has spent the bulk of the last 12 months playing fullback with occasional cameos at flyhalf.

He has been superb in his adopted position but he still harbours ambitions of wearing the No 10 again.

“Personally I’m happy with the way my game is going. I’ve improved my counter attacks and my kicking game‚” Willemse said.

“I do my extras every day and keep on reviewing my game‚ looking at where I went wrong and where I went well.

“After a couple of seasons now‚ opposition have also had time to analyse my game so I’m just trying to keep my confidence up and keep on growing.

“Obviously I want the No 10 jumper again‚ but right now I’m happy to be at fullback. I’ve settled in at fullback and I think I’ve gone well there.

“It’s not happening overnight though‚ I have been working hard on the position.”

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