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JD Schickerling © Gallo Images

JD equipped to fill Eben's shoes

JD Schickerling says he is comfortable adjusting his second row role in the absence of injured DHL Stormers strongman Eben Etzebeth.

It is not known when Etzebeth will return from the injury that has blighted him since the final test of the 2017 Springbok campaign against Wales in Cardiff. According to Stormers coach Robbie Fleck, once Etzebeth starts to move comfortably again it will be a quick recovery after that, but there is no telling when that will be.

In the meantime, the Stormers will have to dig into their fairly extensive depth at lock. The Cape franchise are well equipped in the second row, with youngsters such as Salmaan Moerat and Eddie Zandbergh both poised to come through should the opportunity present itself. Then there are the slightly more experienced player on the fringes, such as Western Province skipper Chris van Zyl and Jan de Klerk, while Johan du Toit, brother of Pieter-Steph, could also play there, as could Cobus Wiese.

But it is Schickerling who will be entrusted with the task of filling in for Etzebeth, and in one sense, meaning his excellent Currie Cup form last year, he is well equipped to do so. Schickerling was long ago pinpointed as a prodigious star of the future, and although a broken neck playing age-group rugby halted his progress and threatened his career, he is now confirming his early promise.

However, in another sense it shouldn’t be ideal for Schickerling, as he is considered a more natural No 5 lock. And with Pieter-Steph du Toit filling that position, Schickerling is likely to be confined during Etzebeth’s absence to the tighter, more physical driving role of a No 4.

Schickerling though is not too fazed about that. He says he can make the adjustment, and is happy to help out wherever the Stormers need him.

“I did play a bit as a No 4 during the Currie Cup and it went okay for me so it is not that big an adjustment for me,” said Schickerling during a break in the build-up to the Stormers’ Super Rugby opener against the Jaguares.

“It depends where the team needs me. I don’t mind playing No 4 or No 5, as long as I can be of benefit to the team.”

What Schickerling is sure of though is that the gap left by Etzebeth will be a big one to fill.

“Eben being out is a bad thing for us, he plays a key role. But if I get an opportunity I will definitely use it.”

Of course with Du Toit these days playing much of his international rugby as a blindside flank, Schickerling might be a first choice lock for the Stormers even when Etzebeth is fit. A pack that is made up of Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Wilco Louw, Etzebeth, Schickerling, Siya Kolisi, Du Toit and Nizaam Carr would certainly have a powerful look to it, and then there are other players such as Wiese and Jaco Coetzee to factor in.

Playing in such a formidable forward unit can only be of benefit to Schickerling. If he can carry on his form of the Currie Cup, where he contributed in every area that a lock can contribute and boasted a phenomenal work-rate, there is no reason that he can’t make the step up to international level this year. Rassie Erasmus, who will be in charge of the Boks in 2018, certainly rates him highly, and has since he was a schoolboy.

“I have such a great opportunity (to advance myself) by playing alongside players such as Eben and Pieter-Steph. They boost me. We’ve got good depth in our team and competition is always a good thing. The Currie Cup was a good platform for me.”


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