CAPE TOWN – Damian Willemse’s performance for the Springbok Green team at the weekend was a poor one, but it shouldn’t take anything away from him as a talent.
While there are probably a few players who would feel that they weren’t at their absolute best at Newlands, nobody would be more disappointed in his productions than the Stormers flyhalf.
It was a bad afternoon for Willemse, that’s a fact, as he was completely outplayed in his much-hyped battle with Gold team pivot Elton Jantjies.
Willemse didn’t show control the way his direct opponent did, while his kicking performance was also one that would have given him much to think about after the game.
He pushed two of his three attempts at goal – which were right in front of the posts – wide, and he also erred an important kick to touch.
And then, to make his already-sour afternoon even worse, there was that yellow card that came after he prevented Gold wing Yaw Penxe from scoring what looked like a certain try.
Building up to the game, one of the things on my “wish list” for the encounter was that Willemse would take more control as a flyhalf during the game. But here’s the thing.
The 22-year-old’s struggles at the weekend weren’t made any easier by the fact that he wasn’t a flyhalf playing behind a dominant pack, and as far as his kicking is concerned, well, kicking has never been a weakness for him, and it’s something that can certainly be remedied. It will get better as he gets into the flow of things.
Even if the only rugby you’ve ever watched was a highlights reel of a Super Rugby game, it would have been enough to show that when it comes to Willemse, the talent is there and it cannot be disputed.
There are things Willemse can do that other flyhalves can only dream of. And in saying that I’m not just referring to his lethal feet, his hands or any of the flashy things he can effortlessly pull off.
He is physical as well and then there is his vision – vision that allows him to spot gaps that would go unnoticed by most. Stormers coach John Dobson would tell you that Willemse is extremely hard working as well.
To see red flags flashing like Christmas lights because of one poor performance is premature and unnecessary. You wouldn’t include a player in the Bok team after a solo performance, regardless of how life-changing it was, and you can’t question a player’s quality because of one poor game.
Super Rugby Unlocked hasn’t even kicked off yet, so the real chance to work off the rust is still to come.
Willemse knows the role he has to play for the Stormers and the Boks, and at the very least he can use the lessons from the weekend to better himself as a player.
Again, Willemse’s outing at the weekend was not an indication of his abilities, it was a bad day at the office, those days everybody has. And it should be treated as such.