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Damian Willemse can help Stormers rumble against Clermont … but where does he play?

Cape Town – It was a strenuous journey for the Stormers to reach Clermont, as they travelled from Cape Town to Istanbul and Lyon before finally arriving in the central French city yesterday afternoon.

So, having gone through all of that, the United Rugby Championship (URC) title winners would want to make it worth their while and show the whole of Europe just what they are made of in Saturday’s Champions Cup opener against Clermont Auvergne (5.15pm kick-off).

And the fact that the temperature is likely to drop to below zero for the early evening game won’t deter the Cape side from playing their usual attacking style that was on full show in the first half of last week’s URC win over the Dragons.

“We’re here safe, just got here half-an-hour ago. It’s a new team that we are playing against, in terms of what we faced in the URC previously. What we’ve seen of Clermont, it’s a little bit different,” Stormers attack coach Dawie Snyman said yesterday.

“Being in France, the stadium is apparently a great place to play rugby. It will be different but it’s something we are looking forward to. We are here now, which is sort of the same team we are going to play (on Saturday). It actually looks quite fine – it’s cold, but it’s not like the game at Ospreys, where it was wet and windy.

“In terms of handling the ball, we will be able to play our game, we will be allowed to do that. We will have a closer look at training tomorrow, see if anything pops up in terms of the conditions.”

One man who will play a big part in handling the pressure and giving the Stormers direction is Springbok star Damian Willemse, who sat out of the Dragons game to rest up a bit following a busy November tour.

Manie Libbok is the undoubted Stormers general at flyhalf, but Willemse will help with splitting the backline on attack and providing an extra tactical kicking option – something the Capetonians want to improve on.

“We definitely have a plan for him this weekend, and we have communicated that with him. So, he knows where he will play, and you will see on Friday,” Snyman quipped without revealing whether Willemse will play at No 10, No 12 or No 15.

“Clermont are a very physical side, so we can’t run away from that. We will have to do well upfront, make sure we match them there, to make sure we get the opportunities we like to create for our speedsters.

“The kicking game is part of our game, so it’s about taking the best option that’s on. So, we must make sure we take the right option to keep applying the pressure.

“We’ve got to find a way, if we start well, to keep pressure on teams. The stat that stood out for us is that we only had 39% territory this weekend, which probably means a lot of mistakes in our half.

“That tends to happen if you are playing well and overplay a little bit, and try one or two things. It’s something we’re definitely addressing and trying to find solutions for.”