Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – The Stormers, having generally haemorrhaged more
talent than they have recruited this season, could really do with Argentinean
second-row capture Manuel Carizza making a strong impression on his Super Rugby
debut against the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday (19:10).
He will be among several debutants at this level in the
visitors’ match 23 revealed on Wednesday, but the 29-year-old is an exception
in that he is a street-wise, 40-cap Test veteran also with eight or nine years
of experience in the uncompromising French Top 14.
It would do the Stormers’ hopes of reaching the playoffs
this year the power of good if their foreign signing asserts himself pretty
quickly in the competition – perhaps as early as Saturday night at Ellis Park,
where a crowd of 40,000-plus is expected, a situation enhanced by the home
outfit’s slightly upset first-round triumph in Bloemfontein.
Just for one thing, he goes head to head in the No 5 shirt
with one of the relatively few current Springbok-standard players in the Lions’
ranks, Franco van der Merwe, and their lineout battle in particular could be a
key determinant in the fixture.
While Carizza has a Test pedigree for the weakest of the
“big four” southern hemisphere nations, whether he will cut it in Super Rugby
cannot be taken for granted; first clues ought to be apparent in this derby
opener for the late-starting Stormers.
The second row is just one area where the Capetonians’ depth
has been affected either by departure or injury at this infant stage of the
season: there is no Eben Etzebeth for several weeks yet, reducing the awe factor
in their tight five, whilst that freakish athlete Andries Bekker now plies his
trade in the less stressful environment of Japan.
Another reason for Carizza to want to impress quickly,
perhaps, is that honest workhorse De Kock Steenkamp is back very close to full
fitness and will be in the selection mix shortly – maybe even in time for the
first home match against the Hurricanes next Friday.
Asked by Sport24 how ready he felt Carizza was for his Super
Rugby baptism after a few weeks in the Newlands-based fold, coach Allister
Coetzee replied: “Manuel has got the responsibility to run the lineouts, to
manage that, and from what I’ve seen in training and warm-up games, I’m very
happy with the way he’s done it.
“He’s got international experience, and there’ll also be
plenty of good support around him, for him to make the right calls.
“I’m pleased with Manuel, and we all know that his partner
(this weekend) Rynhardt Elstadt, has great ability as the front lock. He’s
trained hard, in the off-season as well, and hopefully now he can stay
Coetzee said the construction of his tight five, broadly,
for the Lions clash, was cause for satisfaction.
“I’m pleased with what we could (assemble) ... I must say
from watching the Lions’ win against the Cheetahs, they showed a 100 percent
success rate in the lineouts and Franco is also a known good contesting factor
in that area; I expect them to try to put a lot of pressure on Manuel.
“But it’s not just about him ... don’t forget that Duane
(Vermeulen) is also a great lineout exponent; he understands that area and will
give Manuel all the support he needs.”
The Stormers will presumably hope, in addition, that the
2.02m, 118kg Carizza can bring his own knowledge of Argentinean scrummaging principles
into play to their advantage in that phase.
Versatile forward Michael Rhodes – a former Lions
representative -- provides the lock cover off the bench on Saturday.
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