Johannesburg - The Stormers management has confirmed the progress made by Springbok Eben Etzebeth towards becoming a player who can fill both lock positions by opting to use him as cover for No 5 in Saturday’s important Super Rugby clash with the Waratahs in Sydney.
According to the supersport.com website, ever since Etzebeth made his first class debut for the Stormers in the 2012 Super Rugby season there has been speculation he might be able to double in a middle of the lineout role due to the fact that he played some of his age-group rugby in the No 5 jersey.
However, but for a match against the Southern Kings in 2013, Etzebeth has been used exclusively in a No 4 role, even though Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has expressed the view that Etzebeth could conceivably be used as a No 5 should it be required.
Etzebeth does have the athleticism for the role, and with Pieter-Steph du Toit out injured for a few more months and Victor Matfield now joining him, there is a potential hole to be filled there at Springbok level.
Of course, there is a chance that Manuel Carizza will play the whole of Saturday’s game, but the way that Stormers coach Allister Coetzee spoke up the intensity that replacement Jean Kleyn, a specialist No 4, could bring in Sydney, it appears likely we will see Etzebeth calling the Stormers lineouts later in the match.
According to Stormers forwards coach Matt Proudfoot, Etzebeth’s transition to being a lock with utility value has required some work, but there has now been sufficient progress made for Etzebeth to be used as No 5 cover at Super Rugby level.
"We have Jean Kleyn coming in for Ruan Botha as the lock covering from the bench because we may need his intensity late in the game and Eben has now been worked into a position where he can cover 5," said Proudfoot from Sydney.
"Developing Eben into that sort of player has always been part of the plan as he definitely has the attributes to cover both.
"However the key has been to make sure the timing is right.
"Our lineout is functioning well now, and we have a lot of confidence in that phase of play, so this is the right time to try it.
"You don’t want to expose a player to a new role when you are doing badly. Manuel Carizza’s leadership of the lineout has been excellent and he has also been fantastic for the development of Ruan (Botha) and of Eben.
"He’s an important part of the team. I’m not too worried at this stage about Eben’s calling abilities, what is important is that he is a good athlete and has the right physical skills, and as one of our best forwards we would want to keep him on the field for the whole game if possible."
With physical No 4 locks always being in more plentiful in South Africa than the more athletic middle of the lineout jumpers, the Boks could certainly have a few of their headaches eased if Etzebeth showed that at bare minimum he was capable of fulfilling the No 5 role late in a match, thus providing different bench options to national coach Meyer.
15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Matt Carraro, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 David Dennis (captain), 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Benn Robinson
Substitutes (from): 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Pat McCutcheon 21 Stephen Hoiles, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 24 Peter Betham, 25 Jono Lance
15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Juan de Jongh (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones