Flecks back­ing Willemse

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - WYNONA LOUW

Storm­ers coach Rob­bie Fleck says he doesn’t want Damian Willemse to be “in­hib­ited” when he starts at No 10 against the Chee­tahs at the Free State Sta­dium tomorrow.

Willemse, who was a part of Chean Roux Ju­nior Spring­bok side that claimed the bronze medal at the World Rugby Un­der-20 Cham­pi­onships in Ge­or­gia, will earn his first start for the Storm­ers af­ter com­ing off the bench in the Storm­ers’ win over the Kings ear­lier this sea­son.

“He will make mis­takes, but we don’t mind that. We would rather he tried things than go out there and be too in­hib­ited by the fear that he might make some mis­takes,” said Fleck.

“He has a lot of skill and cer­tainly brings the ca­pa­bil­ity of bring­ing a new di­men­sion to us on at­tack. We have tried Kurt Cole­man against the Sharks and Dil­lyn Leyds went well when he got a game there but we want to see what Damian can do. If he goes well we will def­i­nitely con­sider him for a role in the busi­ness end of the com­pe­ti­tion.”

Fleck also said the ex­pe­ri­ence that Willemse will have around him in Shaun Treeby at in­side cen­tre and Jano Ver­maak at scrumhalf would will help him han­dle some of the pres­sure.

“Damian is a young kid in our sys­tem who has re­ally im­pressed us over the past 12 months and we have been groom­ing him for an op­por­tu­nity. And now that the back end of the com­pe­ti­tion has ar­rived we feel the time is right to give him a try,” Fleck said.

“We want to take a look at him. He has come off the bench for us a bit this sea­son but this is his chance to start at fly­half. What helps us is that we have ex­pe­ri­enced guys on ei­ther side of him.”

And al­though Willemse played most of the Ju­nior World Cham­pi­onship at No 12, Fleck be­lieves he won’t have much trou­ble tran­si­tion­ing back into his nat­u­ral po­si­tion.

“In mod­ern rugby the fly­half and in­side cen­tre play sim­i­lar games so I don’t fore­see it be­ing a prob­lem. He is a ma­ture kid and, as I said, he has ex­pe­ri­enced guys around him. The left footed kick­ing of SP Marais at full­back will also help him and take some of the pres­sure off him.

The Bloem­fontein fix­ture will also see loose­head prop Steven Kit­shoff make his first ap­pear­ance for the Storm­ers since 2015 should he come off the bench, while hooker Ra­mone Sa­muels will make his first start in the Storm­ers jersey.

Skip­per Siya Kolisi and vice-cap­tain Eben Etze­beth, who are both be­ing rested, will have their cap­taincy roles cov­ered by tight­head Frans Mal­herbe and util­ity back Dil­lyn Leyds re­spec­tively, with lock Chris van Zyl re­plac­ing Etze­beth in the sec­ond row.

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