A match made in heaven or hell for Province
CURRIE CUP FINAL SPOTLIGHT: Western Province are taking a big risk by playing Damian Willemse at No.12 in Saturday’s Currie Cup Final at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday. Warren Fortune reports.
Province coach John Dobson has reinstated Josh Stander to flyhalf after Willemse’s poor showing in the pivotal position in the tense 35-32 extra-time semifinal win over the Blue Bulls last weekend.
However, Dobson still felt the need to include Willemse in his starting XV for Saturday’s Final to combat the Sharks’ kicking game.
“We think the Sharks will play for territory, so we wanted to have a bit more firepower there.
“Obviously with Damian at 12 it gives us an extra kicking option and Josh [Stander] really had a good season.
Willemse’s move to 12 is an intriguing and unexpected one. Big changes before a big Final is not the norm and Willemse’s partnership with Stander in the inside channel could be a match made in heaven or hell for Province
“I don’t see it as a risk. I think it would be a risk if we had to carry on like we were.
“It was made clear that Willemse’s international position is at fullback. As a fullback you are hitting the line at full speed and I think what we saw last week was that Damian took the ball at full speed and we struggled to get outside their [Bulls] rush [defence] and I think it’s a lot to ask the guy to boss the thing with a new scrumhalf that he never played with.
“For him to boss the game was a big ask and I actually feel this is safer. He has played 12, we did move him across to 12 during the game last week and there is just less stress in terms of decision making,” Dobson added.
Dobson believes Stander will be able to handle a rush defence in the Final.
“Josh has a lot of experience. I think the team feels safe with Josh.
“What we didn’t do last week, was to get the ball out the back against the rush defence.
“Damian was taking it straight to the line and all our centres were taking it to the line. The only ball we got out the back was the one that led to SP’s [Marais] try and the irony was that Damian was the guy who made the pass to [Dillyn] Leyds in the build up.
“I think Josh is quite good at getting the ball behind if they do come with a big rush.
“Defensively he (Damian] is very strong and very aggressive. The way he defended at 12 in the last half an hour last week was very good,” said Dobson.
By Warren Fortune