Willemse all-in for DHL Stormers

PUBLISHED: April 24, 2024

Damian Willemse is putting everything into helping the DHL Stormers get back on track in a massive clash with Leinster at DHL Stadium on Saturday.

The DHL Stormers will take on the eight-time champions, looking to rebound with an emphatic performance after a home defeat against Ospreys.

“It’s going to be a big game this weekend. It’s a must-win game for us,” Willemse said. “We’ve let our supporters down over the past two weeks, with the Stade Rochelais game and slipping at the end with the Ospreys one. We will be looking to correct that.

“It has been a tough few weeks, losing two on the bounce, but we are preparing as best we can and everybody is positive. We are looking forward to a big game and hopefully we can get our fans there to back us up and make them proud.

“We are doing everything we can to get a win on Saturday and make sure we turn things around, especially with the top eight being so tight.”

Leinster are also hunting a strong response after a youthful team suffered a defeat to the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg.

Having faced Leinster twice before, Willemse knows the depth of quality that the Irish side has in their squad.

“It doesn’t matter if Leinster have sent a younger squad, we know it will still be a massive challenge. Anybody who comes out of the Leinster academy is good,” Willemse said.

“They still have a lot of experience with Cian Healy in the front row, Scott Penny in the back row and Ciaran Frawley at the back, just to name a few, They have quality players all over the pitch. They are a big team so we will have to be at our best.”

The visitors reinforced their coaching staff this season by recruiting Jacques Nienaber, who served as DHL Stormers defence coach between 2008 and 2014.

“They have implemented the rush and blitz defence a little bit more, but they’ve done that for a few years in the past,” Willemse said. “It’s all about our preparation, looking at the tapes, seeing what they present to us and what challenges they might bring.

“We also have to be able to adapt on the field, with how the game unfolds. Us as decision makers have to be sharp. If we give them a sniff, they will take it. We have to play smart, see what they bring and adapt where necessary.”

Since returning from international duty, Willemse has rejoined Dan du Plessis in the DHL Stormers’ midfield and the dynamic duo have formed a solid partnership that has shown both defensive resilience and an attacking edge.

“Dan and I have been playing together as centre partners for a while now. This year it’s been going quite well for us,” Willemse said.

“The way we can get better is by trusting each other, continuing to play to our strengths and keeping on looking for opportunities to exploit the defence. That’s how we can help the team go forward and put the pack on the front foot.”