'I hope he will go back a wiser and more rounded player'
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: With 15 Saracens players competing for various nations at the World Cup, the Londoners’ squad depth will be tested at the start of the English domestic season.
However, the arrival of Damian Willemse from the Stormers gives Saracens an outstanding talent who can play flyhalf and fullback even though he may still be called into the Springbok World Cup squad if injury strikes.
Brad Barritt is excited to see Willemse at the club, believing Saracens can help turn him into an even better player thanks to the different style of rugby in the Premiership that requires a more structured approach and a quick understanding of the defensive structure and kick-chase strategy.
With Max Malins and England’s Alex Goode injured, Willemse solves a brewing crisis at No.10. Barritt said: “Damian had his first training session with at the start of this week and he is a very exciting talent and is someone who has played at No.10 and fullback.
“He is an immensely skilful player who we welcome with open arms and it is a win-win all round. We have the benefit of an incredible talent, a great young player with a fantastic future ahead of him, and he has the opportunity to work on a few different things than he would face playing in South Africa.
“I hope he will go back a wiser and more rounded player from this experience because anyone who comes over to the UK realises that the game is played in a slightly different way and it requires different skills. The Stormers and Western Province will hopefully benefit from the next couple of months from Damian’s progression. On the flip side, we are going to benefit from a really talented player joining us.
“It’s obviously disappointing that Max Malins is injured having come on leaps and bounds last season. He was looking good in pre-season before getting injured and is out for some time. Alex Goode should be back in training from his foot injury in a couple of weeks and is on the mend.”
Willemse has joined what Barritt calls a “fresh-faced squad” where new combinations will be needed for the Premiership Cup which is taking place as a lead-in tournament before the delayed start to the Premiership. “It’s a fresh-faced squad at the moment. In terms of this early part of the season, the word we are using around the club is ‘opportunity’ because we have a great academy system.
“These guys may not have been given as much of a chance as they would have liked because the starting XV has been so successful. Now, we can unearth the next generation of talent and they can put a marker down for the rest of the season. The squad has come on leaps and bounds.”
By Chris Jones, @RugbyPass
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