Eben, Elton will return via bench
DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has confirmed that Springboks Eben Etzebeth and Elton Jantjies will return to rugby this weekend via the bench.
The Cape team are set to face the Blues in a Vodacom Super Rugby match at the North Shore Stadium in Albany on Friday, and Coetzee was pleased to have all hands on deck in training on Monday. That included Siya Kolisi, who withdrew from last week’s game against the Hurricanes at the last minute because of a groin injury, as well as Etzebeth and Jantjies, who are returning from more length injury enforced absences.
“Today’s training went really well. We trained at Teachers Easterns which was very different from the synthetic field we trained on last week in the build-up to the Hurricanes game,” said Coetzee via teleconference call from Auckland on Monday.
“You may have seen that last week before the Palmerston North game, Eben did the warm-up with us. The only player missing there was Siya. Today everyone trained and took a full part in the practice so we have 26 players on tour and 26 players to choose from for the Blues match which is a good position for us to be in.”
Were Etzebeth to start against the Blues it would be the first time this season the pack was at full-strength, but listening to Coetzee talk, that doesn’t seem likely.
“It is good to have Eben back but he hasn’t played in some time and as always when that is the case, you don’t really know what you’re getting until he plays in a game,” said the coach.
“It normally takes a couple of games before a player coming back from a lengthy injury really hits the zone. It would be unfair to start him in this match. Neither Andries Bekker nor De Kock Steenkamp, based on recent performances, deserves to be dropped. They are playing well in combination and they haven’t played any bad games.
“Eben needs to be eased back. We will give him the work-load we feel he is ready for this week, which should be about 40 to 50 minutes.”
Coetzee added that Steenkamp had really impressed during the time that Etzebeth has been absent, which dates back to early February, when the lock was injured in a warm-up fixture against Boland Cavaliers at the Cape Town Stadium.
“What De Kock has done is amplify what opportunity means. You have to always be ready to slot in when needed, in fact you need to be ready ahead of time so you can make maximum use of your opportunity. De Kock has done that. He has played consistently well for us this season.”
On the subject of Jantjies, who twisted his knee against the Cheetahs three weeks ago, Coetzee said that the player was training with confidence and was ready to go again. But the performances of Gary van Aswegen in his absence have been good enough for him to retain his place for the Albany game.
“Gary has been steady. He’s kicked well out of hand and had made some really good decisions. You need to look at what the opposition are going to bring and where they are going to challenge you so we will stick with Gary. Elton has made a good recovery though and I am looking forward to what he can bring as a replacement.”
Coetzee said that he had yet to get a full assessment of the injury to Michael Rhodes, who flew home to Cape Town with an ankle injury after the 18-16 win over the Hurricanes, but “conservatively I would say four to six weeks”.