• Dazzling Damian Willemse worth his pot of gold

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    Damian Willemse, outstanding in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, has been my DHL Stormers player of the season, writes Mark Keohane.

    In 2021, I commented on a story in Rapport Newspaper stated that Willemse was earning R5million a year. My comment, to the Rapport story, was that I thought Willemse was overpaid for what he had produced for the Stormers. It upset Willemse and it upset many at the Stormers, including coach John Dobson.

    My view was Willemse had not taken the step from brilliant schoolboy to big time professional player. My comment was based on a lack of performance.

    This season Willemse, mostly playing at No 12, has been everything but overpaid. He has been worth every cent of his investment and it has been a joy to watch him grow in maturity in every game. He has settled superbly in the No 12 jersey and been equally effective when asked to play No 15.

    There are many who still believe that No 10 is his best position, but it is at No 12 where I have seen him make the most impact in his professional career. Willemse has played 50 matches for the Stormers and this year he has commanded presence, both as a player and leader.

    His performances have been consistent, his decision-making in critical moments has been inspiring and he is playing like a player who understands the small margins that determine match wins and title prospects. His late drop goal against the Vodacom Bulls at the DHL Stadium a month ago proved the difference in the hosts 19-17 win. It is the most defining moment of the Stormers league season because it was ultimately that match-up that proved the difference between the Stormers finishing second and the Bulls placing fourth.

    The Vodacom URC this season has unearthed so many wonderful new faces, but it it is the fresh-faced Willemse who has been as much a revelation as any new kid on the block.

    May it continue into the play-offs and into the Springboks international season.

    Steyn to Willemse, the changing of the Springbok guard




    Article written by

    Keo has written about South African and international rugby professionally for the last 25 years