What good is Willemse sitting on a plastic chair?

CAPE TOWN – Rugby analyst Mark Keohane shares his weekly rants and raves following the weekend’s rugby fixtures.


1. Dillyn Leyds remains one of my favourite South African rugby players. Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus could do worse than revisit his view of Leyds. Here’s a player with absolute understanding of defence, as much as attack. 

Last year Leyds scored one of the individual tries of the season against the Sunwolves, while on Saturday his defensive execution in saving what seemed a certain try against the Hurricanes was a masterclass. Leyds, back pedalling, held his defensive line against a rampaging Ben Lam before turning and backing his pace to make the most telling of tackles.

2. Waratahs and Wallabies wing Israel Folau is one try away from being the greatest try-scorer in Super Rugby history. Folau’s try in the Tahs’ stunning win against the previously unbeaten Crusaders on Saturday drew him level with Doug Howlett’s 59 tries. 

Folau’s homophobia would win him few friends, but his ability on a rugby field can only be applauded. He is a brilliant player and only Sonny Bill Williams can rival his impact since converting from rugby league to union.

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Damian Mckenzie of the Chiefs produced a masterclass on Saturday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

3. Chiefs and All Blacks utility back Damian McKenzie produced the most flawless fullback display in the history of Super Rugby on Saturday.  McKenzie’s 80 minutes terrorising the Bulls was like something I’ve never seen. The Chiefs have used McKenzie at flyhalf and fullback, but it’s the No 15 jersey in which he produces his best. 

McKenzie was special at Loftus in how he attacked space and put his teammates into space. He didn’t put a foot wrong and didn’t make one poor decision. His goalkicking completed the finest of afternoons.


1. Jean-Luc du Plessis doesn’t select himself at flyhalf, so this rant isn’t aimed at Du Plessis, despite his shocker against the Hurricanes in Wellington. It’s the Stormers’ coaching staff who continue to select Du Plessis ahead of the mercurial talents of Damian Willemse. 

Why, in South Africa, do players with X-factor have to fight so hard to convince coaches of their value. I think of Gio Aplon and Cheslin Kolbe’s Super Rugby careers and how often they were vilified for a mistake when they should have been lauded for making the impossible seem possible. 

Willemse is the most dynamic game breaker, but he can’t break down any defence when warming a plastic chair as a reserve.

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Damian Willemse of the Stormers during the 2019 Super Rugby game between the Sharks and the Stormers at Kings Park Stadium. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

2. Something has to be done to stop the slide of the Cheetahs and Kings in the PRO14. It’s become embarrassing at how easily the two SA teams get rolled over. We know the problems with the Kings: they’ve just not had good enough players since their introduction to the PRO14. 

Last year the Cheetahs made the quarter-finals, but were never going to be good enough to win the competition. 

Currently, the two sides make up the numbers in the tournament and that is doing nothing for SA rugby. A player investment has to be made in making good on the word challenge because at the moment the Cheetahs and Kings are as impotent and predictable as Italy in the Six Nations.

3. What to make of the Bulls? The horror at Loftus against the Chiefs was agonising if you are proudly Bulls. New Zealand’s worst-performing franchise in 2019 put 56 points past SA’s best – in South Africa. 

Bulls coach Pote Human said he would take ownership because he gave the players the previous week off. 

Nonsense, these are professionals. This is their job. Players can’t want rewards, but never take consequence for a no-show at the office. They should all be docked a week’s pay.


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