Saracens have agreed to sign Stormer and Springboks No 10 Damien Willemse as a World Cup cover player if he fails to break into Rassie Erasmus’ 31-man squad.
The out-half, who can also play centre, winger and full-back is currently playing in the Currie Cup but has been given the opportunity to play for Saracens according to Western Province coach John Dobson.
“If he doesn’t go to the World Cup, Damian could have an opportunity to go to Saracens on a short-term loan. If that does come about it will be a good thing for him as he can learn a lot through a short stint in the UK. Saracens, as you know, have a very good kicking game. If he goes there he will learn a lot about the game management that is expected of fly-half and he will come back better equipped to do well for us in Super Rugby. Our WP captain Chris van Zyl played for Saracens last year, enjoyed it and learnt a lot from the experience and was then back to take part in our pre-season,” he said.
As well as gaining experience Willemse could get some vital game time and be match-fit should an injury occur to someone in the 31-man squad and he would therefore be available to slot in.
Having come back from a knee injury Willemse is preparing for Western Province’s final Currie Cup game this weekend against the Cheetahs. Dobson is sure that Willemse could cut it at the reigning European and Premiership champions, but nothing is confirmed that he will head to England.
“Damian is a special kid off the field as well as on it and is a deep thinker on the game so I don’t think he’s going to be too badly knocked if he isn’t in the World Cup squad, but he does want to make a point to the national selectors. In his mind, he is still playing for a chance to be in the World Cup squad. Damian showed us last week when he came on against Griquas what a good attacking fly-half he is and we are expecting a lot from him against the Cheetahs. He is really motivated to do well for us and hopefully push our season out by another few weeks, but if he is not in the World Cup squad when it is announced on Monday he will then give some thought to Saracens,” he added.
The Springboks’ World Cup squad is set to be announced on Monday and it seems unlikely Willemse will be involved which would open the door for him to cover for the likes of England’s Owen Farrell while they go to Japan.
Pat Lam commits long-term future to Bristol Bears
Pat Lam has committed his long-term future to Bristol Bears.
The Director of Rugby agrees a new five-year contract, following the completion of his existing deal, until the end of the 2027/2028 campaign.
The most successful Bristol coach since the game turned professional, Lam achieved an immediate promotion back to the top-flight in his first season at the helm. In 2019, he led Bears to ninth position – the highest points tally for a newly promoted club in twelve years.
A year later, Bristol clinched a third placed finish in the Gallagher Premiership and secured their first major silverware since 1983 with a European Challenge Cup Final victory over Toulon.
“He has embraced the rebrand and our vision of ‘Inspiring Our Community Through Rugby Success’. From the Academy to our Women’s team, Pat lives and breathes our mission every day. He has given the city a rugby club we can be proud of.”
Then, last season, Bristol recorded their highest ever regular season position, topping the table and making the Champions Cup knockout stages, while Lam was awarded Global Reach Director of Rugby of the Year.
Owner Steve Lansdown said: “What Pat and his team have achieved in a short space of time at Bristol Bears is excellent, but it’s not just the way that the team have performed on the field, it’s the culture and standards he has set to continually drive the organisation forward.
“Bristol Bears are on an exciting journey, and we are delighted to have Pat at the forefront of that. He has embraced the rebrand and our vision of ‘Inspiring Our Community Through Rugby Success’. From the Academy to our Women’s team, Pat lives and breathes our mission every day. He has given the city a rugby club we can be proud of.”
Chairman Chris Booy said: “We’re delighted to have secured Pat’s signature on a long-term contract. It’s no surprise he would have the interest of every top club in the world, so it’s testament to the ambition of the Bears that Pat was eager to stay.
“We are absolutely aligned on the direction of the club. Bristol Bears will continue to grow and we will achieve sustainable success at the top of the domestic and European game.
“Pat has built a squad of humble young men who not only represent our community superbly, they play an innovative brand of rugby that has everybody taking notice.”
Director of Rugby Pat Lam said: “It’s an absolute honour to continue as Director of Rugby at Bristol Bears. To have the opportunity to work with a great group of people, and to represent our community with pride and love is very special.
“I am grateful to have the continued support of Steve, Jon and Chris and I’m thankful that they have entrusted me to keep leading the Bristol Bears along our journey of Inspiring Our Community Through Rugby Success.
“While we have come a long way in the last four years, I am really excited by what is still to come as we challenge all of us individually and collectively to raise the bar every day.
“I genuinely believe that now we have all our Men, Women and Academy aligned as one club, we are poised to bring a lot of inspiration and success, on and off the field, for many years ahead and I feel very humbled to be a part of it.”
Harlequins squad for 2021/22 campaign
Harlequins’ coaching team have announced the Club’s squad to tackle the 2021/22 campaign
Director of Rugby Performance Billy Millard and Senior Coach Tabai Matson have named a 61-man squad for the season ahead, consisting of 37 senior squad members and 24 Harlequins Academy players.
Second row Stephan Lewies will continue to lead the Club having led the men in the Famous Quarters to a Gallagher Premiership trophy in just his first season as Club Captain last year, with the Springbok lock ready to lead his side as they look to defend their title.
“I’m honoured to be able to continue leading Harlequins alongside a strong senior group,” said Lewies. “This is a special group and a special place. We’ll look to keep serving this team to the best of our ability.
“We know the challenge we face this season. It will be different to those we faced last season. We’re excited by the challenge and looking to continuously grow as a team.
“We are determined to not stand still; to keep improving as the season goes on and peak at the right time.
“We want to stay true to our DNA playing the Quins way with smiles on our faces.”
Eager to kick-off his first competitive game with Quins this weekend, Matson said: “We’re delighted with how the squad has shaped up over the summer. We’ve had two great pre-season games to prep, and the team are so focused on starting the season playing the Harlequins Way this season again.
“There’s a heap of hugely talented individuals here that went all the way last year, but, equally, we’ve had some stellar players and people join us over the off season who will help Quins continue that development.
“What’s really impressed me has been how determined everyone in the group is to continue evolving the rugby this year. Staying true to that Harlequins style but improving on any weaknesses. It’s an exciting playing and coaching group to be a part of and we can’t wait to get started on Sunday.”
David Ofori Manteaw*
Santiago Garcia Botta
Stephan Lewies – Captain
Team news: Bristol Bears vs Saracens – GP R1
Bristol Bears welcome newly promoted Saracens to Ashton Gate Stadium in a mouthwatering Gallagher Premiership opener on Friday (7.45pm KO).
A bumper crowd is expected in BS3 as Pat Lam’s men return to action under the lights in the competition curtain raiser.
Steven Luatua will skipper the side from the back row, while Bears include eight internationals in the starting line-up.
Harry Randall returns from England duty to take his place in the 23-man squad among the replacements.
Bristol Bears team to face Saracens at Ashton Gate Stadium on Friday, September 17th (7.45pm KO):
15. Charles Piutau; 14. Luke Morahan, 13. Piers O’Conor, 12. Alapati Leiua, 11. Ioan Lloyd; 10. Callum Sheedy, 9. Andy Uren; 1. Jake Woolmore, 2. Harry Thacker, 3. Max Lahiff, 4. Ed Holmes, 5. Chris Vui, 6. Steven Luatua (c), 7. Dan Thomas, 8. Nathan Hughes.
System players: 16. Will Capon, 17. Yann Thomas, 18. Jake Armstrong, 19. Dave Attwood, 20. Jake Heenan, 21. Harry Randall, 22. Sam Bedlow, 23. Niyi Adeolokun.
Unavailable: Bryan Byrne, John Afoa, Kyle Sinckler, Joe Joyce, Tom Whiteley, Tiff Eden, Semi Radradra, Henry Purdy, Siva Naulago.
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