Bok hard man to be rested
There is no structural damage to the ankle that was X-rayed on Monday, but Springbok hard man Eben Etzebeth looks set to be rested when the Stormers play the Lions in their Super Rugby match at Newlands on Saturday afternoon.
Etzebeth has been a permanent fixture in the Stormers team since missing the second match of their overseas tour in April, and after playing three successive test matches for the Springboks against England, he has thus had just the one bye week off in nearly three months.
With a likely play-off game looming in the Stormers’ future, the Stormers management look like they will take the wise route by giving him this opportunity to catch breath, as they will fellow young tight forward Steven Kitshoff, who has been involved with the Baby Boks during the June international window.
Stormers forwards coach Matt Proudfoot said that Etzebeth would play off the bench against the Lions, but that a further assessment of the injury would be made on Wednesday before the team announcement at lunch-time. Etzebeth has been running in a specially made boot on his ankle this week, but if there is still any discomfort, he will be sat out completely from this weekend’s fixture.
Ironically this will give a deserved opportunity to another outstanding young Western Province lock, Quinn Roux, who is reportedly intending to move to Ireland after the Super Rugby season has run its course. If the rumours are true, it will be a big loss to both the region and South African rugby, as Roux was considered to be ahead of Etzebeth on the pecking order at the Stormers at the start of the season.
What prevented Roux from starting the Super Rugby championship as a starting lock instead of Etzebeth was only the injury that kept him from training in the pre-season. In his absence, and with Rynhardt Elstadt also not ready to start the first game of the season, Etzebeth took his opportunity with both hands and is probably now regarded as South Africa’s most promising young player outside of flyhalf Johan Goosen.
In the meantime Elstadt has established himself back on the flank, where he started his career, but will be missing from the Lions game because of suspension. That means the Stormers will need to find a new blindside flank, and while earlier in the week coach Allister Coetzee appeared poised to select a lock on the flank, the cautious approach to Etzebeth may change that line, with Don Armand possibly being rewarded for his excellent Vodacom Cup form and the good touches he showed as a replacement at Super Rugby level by getting a start in the No7 jersey.
Roux was also excellent when used as a replacement against the Bulls in Pretoria recently and if he gets a chance to play any role on Saturday he could well show the Newlands faithful what they will be missing if indeed he is heading for Ireland.
The other changes to the team that played the Bulls should see Andries Bekker return to No5 lock, with Gio Aplon going back to the wing to accommodate the return of Joe Pietersen, who missed both the Sharks and Bulls games, at fullback. Bryan Habana has been “managed” this week but is expected to start, as is the other Springbok, captain Jean de Villiers.