Stormers resist tight five panic

    2012-07-04 17:09

    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town – The SA conference-leading Stormers have largely given a vote of confidence to the front five which at best experienced “difficulties” in the scrums last weekend for their Super Rugby encounter with the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

    It was one area the embattled Lions noticeably dominated before going down 27-17 at Newlands, but the Stormers’ brains trust made only one adjustment in that area on Wednesday – the expected return of loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff from the Baby Boks’ victorious campaign at the expense of veteran utility front-ranker Deon Carstens, who reverts to the bench.

    There must have been at least some consideration to beefing up the front row by restoring the bulkier Tiaan Liebenberg at hooker, but instead mobile, dynamic Deon Fourie keeps his starting berth and De Kock Steenkamp – normally more of a No 5-type lock – also stays in the mix at No 4 alongside Andries Bekker.

    There is arguably a bit of a sacrifice in “grunt” by combining Steenkamp with Bekker, rather than someone like Quinn Roux or even hard man Rynhardt Elstadt, who instead comes back from suspension to the blindside flank position he has begun to bed down in anew during recent months.

    But the Stormers should at least have a lineout unlikely to play second fiddle, especially as last week’s maiden starter at No 7, Don Armand, excelled in this area against the Lions and is an option off the bench on Bloemfontein.

    From a scrummaging perspective, the visitors clearly have confidence in Kitshoff restoring the necessary stability at No 1, whilst also assuming that tighthead Frans Malherbe, who bravely played while nursing illness symptoms last Saturday, will give a stronger account of himself against the Cheetahs’ Trevor Nyakane than he did against JC Janse van Rensburg.

    At the customary midweek media briefing, coach Allister Coetzee said of Fourie’s retention in the middle of the front row: “Deon really played well last week ... it’s pretty difficult to pull the man of the match out of the team. He’s one of our best players (at present) so you need him on the field; it’s as simple as that.”

    He said it was possible Fourie, who is always capable of shifting effectively to open-side flank during matches, allowing for Liebenberg’s infusion at hooker, would do again on Saturday.

    “It depends on the game situation; it is certainly an option.

    “As far as Kitsie goes, he is looking really energetic on the field (after his week off) ... it did him the world of good. He understands now why we did it and has trained well throughout the week.”

    He said he was confident the scrum would be more efficient.

    “Without a doubt ... when we played the Cheetahs here in round one we scrummed against both WP Nel (back in the starting lineup this weekend) and (currently injured) Coenie Oosthuizen – it was the best possible pack they could field and we did well then. We’ve put in the work and I’m very confident we’ll put it right.”

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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