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Damian Willemse and his mom are heroes of their small Western Cape town

Damian Willemse and his mom are heroes of their small Western Cape town
Damian Willemse of South Africa salutes the fans after winning the Rugby World Cup France 2023 quarterfinal match between France and South Africa at Stade de France on 15 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Aurelien Meunie / Getty Images)

Charlotte Willemse, mother of Springbok fullback Damian Willemse, runs a feeding scheme from her Strand home that helps feed the community in which her son was raised.

When Damian Willemse runs out at the Stade de France for the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday evening, the whole of South Africa will be shouting in support – but none will be louder than the people of Strand, a small town on the False Bay coast 50km outside Cape Town.

“People really love him here; they have a huge amount of respect for him,” Damian’s mother, Charlotte, told Daily Maverick.

Although Strand is known to most as a holiday town, the inequality that persists in the country means there is also a large, impoverished community.

Charlotte runs a feeding scheme from her Strand home to help the community in which her sons were raised. Damian’s brother is former Western Province and Stormers hooker, Ramone Samuels.

“I make the food at home on Tuesdays … there are lots of people coming here from all areas in the Strand, so the numbers just multiply every week,” Charlotte said.

“I also send them home with a package … maybe porridge and jam or whatever I get, then I give them something to take home so that they have food for two days after Tuesday.”

Charlotte Willemse runs a feeding scheme from her Strand home to help the community. (Photo: Supplied)

Damian Willemse is the main financial contributor to the feeding scheme, while his mother, along with a few members of the community, helps to prepare the food. (Photo: Supplied)

Lending a helping hand

The idea to provide meals was sparked by the pandemic and the effects it had on members of their Strand community.

“Damian got involved with the Be The Difference Foundation,” Charlotte said.

“He and Cheslin Kolbe and a few Stormers guys, they wanted to do something in Strand because the foundation is usually in Kraaifontein and those areas, but Damian wanted to do something in Strand too. We distribute food and stuff.

“When everybody went back to work [after the pandemic], we saw that the need was still great here. So Damian asked me if I could go on with the feeding scheme. I agreed, and it hasn’t stopped yet, but the need is becoming greater every day.”

Damian is the main financial contributor to the feeding scheme, while his mother, along with a few members of the community, helps to prepare the food.

Despite his on-field achievements – Damian was part of the Springboks’ 2019 World Cup winning squad and played a leading role in the Stormers’ victorious United Rugby Championship campaign last year – the hot-stepper keeps his feet firmly on the ground.

“They talk about him all the time … I can’t even go to the shops without people saying ‘there is Damian’s mommy’ or they will say ‘Auntie waar’s Damian, wanneer kom Damian’ [Where’s Damian, when is Damian coming?].

“They have a huge amount of respect for him … when Damian is here in Strand and they see his car, they will politely ask if they can take pictures of him or with him and he will always – he has very beautiful manners, I must say that about Damian – go greet everybody here in the street and go say ‘hello, sorry that I’m so scarce’.”

Charlotte, her family and the 50,000-strong Strand community will be cheering their lungs out for their very own superstar. (Photo: Supplied)

A hero to many

Having spent his formative years in Strand, learning to side-step there before moving to Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch and eventually being offered a contract with the Stormers, Willemse has become a hero to many in the town.

“It is, for me, very important that Damian gives back to the community because they stand behind him,” said Charlotte.

“And although he’s not staying here any more, the people still say they’re going to Damian Willemse’s house … that they’re going to get food there.”

Damian will start at fullback in Saturday’s mouthwatering clash against New Zealand’s All Blacks.

Charlotte, her family and the 50,000-strong Strand community will be cheering their lungs out for their very own superstar.

“I’m ecstatic [for the final]. I’m very proud because Damian works very hard.” DM

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup 2023 News Hub
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  • jcdville stormers says:

    I am priviliged to have a photo with Damian,his mom is a hero as well

  • Syd Munzhedzi says:

    The whole community gains. Keep it up.

  • Frank Fettig says:

    What a country this could be –
    without the thieving ANC…

  • Alex Dodd says:

    Reading this makes me want to get involved in some local charity work !

  • Steve Davidson says:

    Just listening on Capetalk to John Maytham interviewing Charlotte. She says she only watches the games afterwards on video and goes and hides in the kitchen while it’s happening.

    Sounds like the usual salt-of-the-earth so-called ‘coloured’ (or maybe ‘soccs’ or ‘sox’) people down here in Cape Town who’ve had a rough deal over the years and have my total sympathy. The best thing is that – despite the nonsense they’ve had – they still have a smile and a joke for you and look after their community.

    And now I find that Strand should really be called a Bok nursery, seeing as how we have Stephen K, Willie le R AND Damian W from here (I currently live up the road in Gordon’s Bay). Fantastic!! Komaan die Bokke!

  • francois.alberts.ca says:

    Damien is probably one of the best rugby players in world rugby at the moment.

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