Willemse the lat­est fly-half to be linked

Bath Chronicle - - SPORT - John Evely sport@bathchron.co.uk

Bath Rugby’s search for ad­di­tional op­tions at fly-half con­tin­ues to be fo­cused in South Africa ac­cord­ing to the lat­est re­ports.

Blue, Black and White di­rec­tor of rugby Stu­art Hooper is now re­ported to be in­ter­ested in sign­ing emerg­ing Spring­bok tal­ent Damian Willemse from Su­per Rugby side Storm­ers.

Ear­lier this year Welsh cen­tre Jamie Roberts went in the op­po­site di­rec­tion as he made a sur­prise mid-sea­son switch to the Cape Town based club.

De­spite Bath be­ing in out­stand­ing form in the Gal­lagher Pre­mier­ship since rugby re­turned in Au­gust from the COVID-19 pan­demic en­forced shut­down, win­ning seven out of the eight games in large part due to the hot form of Welsh in­ter­na­tional fly­half Rhys Pri­est­land, the club con­tinue to be on the hunt for a fly-half.

Be­hind Pri­est­land, who turns 34 in Jan­uary, Bath’s depth in the 10 jersey is very shal­low for such a piv­otal role and in such a star stud­ded squad, fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of Eng­land in­ter­na­tional fly-half Fred­die Burns ear­lier this sum­mer.

Burns was not of­fered a new con­tract at the club and has signed for Ja­panese side Shokki Shut­tles.

Mean­while Fi­jian in­ter­na­tional cen­tre Josh Matavesi has man­fully stepped into the breach when Pri­est­land has been rested and im­pressed in a hap­haz­ard fash­ion, look­ing bet­ter run­ning the ball than kick­ing it.

Look­ing to the fu­ture, young Tom de Glanville is also con­sid­ered an op­tion at stand-off, while the tal­ented Cam Red­path can also step across from cen­tre to 10 if re­quired.

But Bath con­tinue to be linked with in­ter­na­tional stan­dard fly-halves in the trans­fer ru­mour mill, hav­ing had links with South African star Han­dre Pol­lard dis­missed by the now se­ri­ously in­jured Mont­pel­lier back last month.

Wales fly-half Sam Davies was also linked with a po­ten­tial switch to the Rec but now ap­pears to be ready to agree a new deal to re­main at the Dragons who are build­ing their strong­est squad in years.

Spring­bok Jo­han Goosen has also been men­tioned in dis­patches as an op­tion for the club but is cur­rently on a lu­cra­tive deal at Mont­pel­lier.

The Rugby Pa­per re­ported on Sun­day that 22-year-old Willemse is Bath’s new tar­get.

Willemse has al­ready spent time in Eng­land af­ter sign­ing a short-term deal with Sara­cens in 2019 as in­jury cover for Alex Goode and Max Malins.

Like the Sara­cens duo he is able to play at full-back, fly-half and even cen­tre, and was part of South Africa’s World Cup win­ning squad from ear­lier this sea­son; how­ever he played just once in the tour­na­ment in Ja­pan in a big win over Canada in the group stages.

How­ever with the in­jury to Pol­lard, Willemse looks set to be handed more op­por­tu­ni­ties on the in­ter­na­tional stage this sea­son.

His Su­per Rugby side the Storm­ers handed the young­ster a new con­tract un­til 2021 back in De­cem­ber mean­ing any move ahead of the fast ap­proach­ing 2020/21 sea­son, which will be­gin in Eng­land in Novem­ber, looks un­likely.

South African side the Blue Bulls are also re­port­edly in­ter­ested in pris­ing Willemse away from the Storm­ers.

PIC­TURE: Harry Trump/getty Im­ages

Semesa Roko­duguni is tack­led by for­mer Bath player Matt Gar­vey dur­ing the Blue, Black and White’s come­back vic­tory over Gloucester on Tues­day to go sec­ond in the Gal­lagher Pre­mier­ship

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