Bekker may face the Reds
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer apparently mentioned the Stormers when he tried to justify the possible recall of Victor Matfield as national captain by saying there is a lock crisis in the country, but it appears that if there was ever a second row problem at the Cape franchise, it is being cleared up.
On Monday it was confirmed that there was a good chance that the impressive young Eben Etzebeth, who along with the Bulls’ Juandre Kruger has surely proved that there is sufficient new talent coming through for a call to Matfield to be unnecessary, will be fit to play against the Reds. And on Tuesday Stormers assistant coach Matt Proudfoot told the Cape media that there is a good chance Andries Bekker might play too.
Bekker left the field in obvious discomfort complaining of a lower back injury in the defeat to the Crusaders last weekend, and as he has been troubled by back complaints in the past, there was concern that he may be in trouble long term. However that has not been the case, with Bekker staying on with the squad in Australia, and Stormers coach Allister Coetzee deciding against making the call to replacement lock Quinn Roux that he spoke about after the Crusaders game.
“Andries felt a lot better today, and if he gets through training tomorrow, then he will play. If not, then we definitely won’t select him. If they are both okay, Andries and Eben will start at lock for us,” said Proudfoot.
Bekker should have extra motivation to get out there and prove his worth after reading or hearing that Meyer is thinking of bringing Matfield out of retirement to captain the Springboks on an interim basis. If any player has bided his time, it is Bekker (well okay, maybe Bismarck du Plessis too), and his talent demands that he be backed as the first choice No 5 lock, a position that he would fill in any other international team.
The Stormers lighthouse got the better of Kruger when the two went head to head in the recent south/north derby in Cape Town a few weeks ago, but the Bulls player is also more than adequate back-up for Bekker, and has made significant improvements under Matfield’s coaching.
Which really is what Matfield should be concentrating on right now, his new career as a coach (and commentator), and Meyer needs to find enough confidence to embrace a new future for the Boks and not justify the views of those who feared he would be too conservative as a coach by taking a big step backwards into the past.
But back to the Stormers, who have played to the mantra that if they keep winning the national coach will have to recognise the individuals in the team, who face a tough match against the champion Reds in Brisbane. It is made more difficult by the fact they have just suffered their first defeat, and sometimes a first loss means you have to in a sense get back on the bike.
Apart from the injuries suffered by Bekker and Etzebeth, the Stormers also trained on Monday without Duane Vermeulen, which isn’t good news for if they were forced to play without the physical loose-forward and Bekker at the same time it would leave a massive experience void. Fortunately though it seems Vermeulen sitting out was just a precautionary measure, with his knee being “managed”.