Stormers' fly-half Damian Willemse (C) runs with the ball during the Super Rugby match between SA's Stormers and New Zealand's Hurricanes at Newlands Stadium on February 1 2020, in Cape Town. Picture: AFP/ RODGER BOSCH
Stormers' fly-half Damian Willemse (C) runs with the ball during the Super Rugby match between SA's Stormers and New Zealand's Hurricanes at Newlands Stadium on February 1 2020, in Cape Town. Picture: AFP/ RODGER BOSCH

If former Springbok great HO de Villiers was the Stormers head coach he would have no problem playing Damian Willemse on the wing for Saturday’s Super Rugby showdown with the Bulls at Newlands (5.15pm kickoff).

“This youngster is an outstanding talent, an X-factor. I would want him on the wing rather than in his current position at flyhalf because of his ability to exploit space with time on his side and stamp his input on the game,” said De Villiers, who played 14 Tests for SA from 1967 to 1970.

He played 29 matches in all for the Springboks and was regarded as ahead of his time as a fullback, a No 15 who loved nothing more than to join the backline and have a crack at the opposition.

“He’s not someone you coach, you manage him. He needs time to settle into the team. He should have the freedom to make mistakes, and if he tries to do too much by himself (who can blame him?) he’s trying to make a statement, show what he’s all about.

“He just needs time to develop. And if this happens the rewards are endless. I can just picture him jinxing, dummying, sidestepping his way through the opposition. They don’t want to play against a guy like this. And there are a couple of other Stormers backs in the same boat.

“I’m talking about fullback Dillyn Leyds and scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies. All three of these Boks you want on the field all the time. You have to find excuses not to play them.

“The trick for coach John Dobson is how to manage the trio, not curb them. They can take nothing and turn it into something at the drop of hat.

“Dobbo’s a clever guy with an astute rugby brain, so I’m sure he will manage them well.”

De Villiers, 74, feels the Stormers have the armoury to launch a bid for title honours in the Super Rugby competition this season.

“I’ve always backed them but they haven’t won this thing yet and have only made it into one final [which they lost to the Bulls]. They’ve got a hefty pack loaded with World Cup winners and from that base they can dominate and give the back seven front-foot ball,” he added.

He didn’t see last week's opening game won at home against the Hurricanes (27-0) as he was in New Zealand on business.