Can Carizza add class?

    2014-02-19 20:18

    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 injury-free.”

    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.

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

    Read More On:  stormers super 15 cape town rugby

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