Stormers mull lock solution
Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Johannesburg - The Stormers are searching for a lock from outside the region to help them through the current crisis.
According to the supersport.com website, but just who the Stormers will target to come in to provide a temporary solution to the problems that have been caused by injuries and the departure for Japan of Andries Bekker is difficult to ascertain for there is not a lot out there and an approach to former Western Province lock Quinn Roux, now playing in Ireland, never went anywhere.
EP Kings lock Steve Sykes, a former Sharks stalwart, has also turned down the Stormers on the basis that he wants to commit himself fully to his province’s entry into the Premier Division of the Absa Currie Cup later in the year.
Bekker is in Cape Town at present but his injury insurance is too hefty for him to play for the Stormers for just a few weeks, so new WP director of rugby Gert Smal has his first really pressing headache to contend with since taking up his new role as he tries to identify a likely reinforcement.
It will have to happen quickly too, as Eben Etzebeth and Manuel Carizza are due back in a couple of weeks from injury so the new man would effectively only be covering for three weeks. That is a consideration that seems to have Stormers coach Allister Coetzee wondering if there would be a point to getting a reinforcement if it doesn’t happen immediately.
“Currently Gert and I are discussing the issue of a reinforcement and I am sure he has taken it up, but if we do get someone in from outside the system how long will it take him to get up to speed?” said Coetzee.
“Duane Vermeulen has played there for us and even Schalk is prepared to have a go at lock. There is Tazz Fuzani in the system. So one has to make a decision and we are in the process of discussing it.”
The Stormers have their top five locks out at present in the form of Etzebeth, De Kock Steenkamp, Carizza, Rynhardt Elstadt and Gerbrandt Grobler, while the promising young under-21 lock Jean Kleyn, of whom much is expected, has also not been able to take the opportunity he would have been offered in the current situation because he is also injured.
The Stormers face the Highlanders, who are riding high after upsetting the Cell C Sharks in Durban last week, in a Vodacom Super Rugby match at Newlands on Saturday that is now of academic interest only to the Cape side as last week’s defeat to the Toyota Cheetahs extinguished any last flickering hope of making the extended play-offs.
The rest of the season will probably be devoted to getting the new attacking game up to speed, but Coetzee will be the first to admit that this past weekend in Bloemfontein showed that it can’t be at the expense of the reliable defensive game that got the Stormers into the play-offs for three successive seasons before they crashed last year.
It is a long time since the Stormers missed as many tackles as they did against the Cheetahs. Attacking intent is all well and good but defence is at least half the game and you can’t win if it is up to scratch. Neither can you attack without the ball, and with Deon Fourie committed to playing hooker at the moment because of injuries to the two players above him in the pecking order, the Stormers are struggling to win the turn-over ball they need.
The consistency they found in their set-phase play against the Lions on Easter Saturday was also not there against the Cheetahs.
“Set piece will always be the No 1 thing because when you lose your lineout ball you end up defending your own ball, and if you keep defending you get tired,” said Coetzee.