Elstadt option boosts Stormers
Cape Town - Elstadt and Etzebeth - it’s not difficult to imagine that overseas commentators are going to get quite confused about those two names, and how to distinguish the one from the other, in the coming months.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee, back in Cape Town after seeing his team scrape home in their first away game of the Super Rugby season in Johannesburg, is in the enviable position of having to decide between the two impressive, aggressive No 4 locks for Saturday’s crunch top of the log derby against the Bulls at Newlands.
The pair in question are of course Rynhardt Elstadt and Eben Etzebeth. The former was one of the finds of last season, and Bakkies Botha was among the big name players that he terrorised during an impressive first season as a Super Rugby player. But Elstadt started the season late because of injury, and 20-year-old Etzebeth has taken full advantage of the opportunity offered him by delivering four thunderous performances in the No 4 jersey.
Elstadt returned to rugby last week with an impressive performance against the Sharks in a Vodacom Cup game, where he played 65 minutes. And by all accounts he was even more impressive this past weekend as Western Province defeated the EP Kings.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee was already tempted to use Elstadt in the match against the Lions, and eventually only decided against it as he felt the player would gain more out of playing the bulk of a game than by coming off the bench. Coetzee has confirmed that he is considering Elstadt for the game against the Bulls - the need to get Elstadt sharp for the derby was why he was so eager to see Elstadt pick up more game time in the WP team.
Given that everyone knows the impact that Elstadt can have on a game, the question really revolves around whether Coetzee starts with Elstadt and plays Etzebeth off the flank, or does it the other way around. It’s a difficult question to answer, with continuity and the fact that he is a superior lineout forward giving the incumbent the edge at this stage.
Of course Etzebeth is equally at home as a No 5 lock (some would say he is even more at home as he has played most of his career as a middle of the lineout jumper) so there is always the chance the two fearsome Stormers second row forwards could find themselves playing as a combination should Andries Bekker be injured or a decision made to rest him in the future.
Elstadt played 77 minutes against the Kings and there is no longer any doubt over his readiness to make a full return to top level rugby after an absence of nine months (he was injured in the Super Rugby semi-final last year and missed the Currie Cup).