Stormers now breed ‘meanies’

2012-02-28 13:24

Cape Town - A funny thing is happening in this supposedly “southern softie” neck of the rugby woods.

Let’s face it, the failure of either Western Province or the Stormers to land a really major trophy for around a decade has often been blamed on the perceived absence of a hard edge to their packs in the period in question.

It is no coincidence that when Province were dominating the Currie Cup to an unprecedented degree in the mid-1980s - five consecutive successes between 1982 and 1986 - wily president Jan Pickard and company made sure the foundations would be laid quite genuinely from the “front”.

So the glory years coincided with the arrival from upcountry of such rugged, earthy specimens as Theuns Stofberg, Schalk Burger snr, Andre Markgraaff and Gert Smal to complement more home-grown hard-men like wine-farming tighthead prop Hempies du Toit and bellicose hooker Shaun Povey.

Newlands has had pockets of fire-in-the-belly specimens slightly more recently (someone like former Sharks front-ranker Robbie Kempson comes to mind), but tended to still labour under a suspicion, whether warranted or not, from elsewhere in the country that their pack comes up short for mongrel in crunch encounters.

So there has got to be some irony in the fact that, with South Africa’s premier pack “enforcer” Bakkies Botha - bred by the traditionally physical Bulls - now seemingly out of the Test picture and plying his slightly long-in-the-tooth trade in France, not just one but two No 4 locks of uncompromising disposition and great general promise have suddenly blossomed ... in the Stormers ranks.

It is already clear that, assuming both young men are fully fit, coach Allister Coetzee and his lieutenants - forwards coach Matthew Proudfoot must be especially gratified - will have a tough task throughout the Super Rugby campaign deciding between Rynhardt Elstadt and Eben Etzebeth as partner to stalwart No 5 lineout dynamo Andries Bekker.

The 22-year-old Elstadt, starting just his second full season in the competition, has had some injury woes in recent months and an ankle problem prevented him from taking his place in the second row for the opening fixture against the Hurricanes last Saturday.

It seemed a blow considering the undoubted impression he had made at the coalface in 2011 when the Stormers were SA conference winners.

But it simply allowed the even more rookie Etzebeth, still some way from turning 21, to be fast-tracked to a start.

For the record, he made such an immediate, striking impression in a collectively impressive forward effort that he would have been my choice for man of the match; instead it went a little contentiously, I thought, to Beauden Barrett, flyhalf for the rather ramshackle, spoiling and opportunistic visiting side which lost by 13 points.

And that despite a rank incomplete Stormers performance, with coach Coetzee admitting subsequently that it is his backline, far more, that needed the proverbial rocket up the posterior.

You didn’t need to be a scientist to work out with some rapidity that this “kid” (the coward in this 47-year-old scribe might be instantly tempted to reverently brand him Mister, mind you) is tough as nails and was amazingly unperturbed by the magnitude of the occasion.

He is also already big (2.03m and 117kg, the pen sketches say) and mobile into the bargain; imagining his physical dimensions two years or so up the drag is a scary thought.

Everything about Etzebeth on Saturday evening read “presence”; I was able to confirm that after watching the entire game a second time.

It is true that his lineout capability at this level was not tested to any great degree, because the Stormers do tend to go first to bankers like the towering Bekker and, nearer the back, Duane Vermeulen on their throw.

But in every other respect Etzebeth came through with flying colours. He worked hard, drove even harder when he got a ball-in-hand chance, and was presumably influential in a mostly stout scrum and first-rate, as ever, rolling maul.

Perhaps most illuminatingly, though, it did not take him long to be “thereabouts”, and then not surrendering an inch, whenever a tetchy contest threatened to veer toward bouts of argy-bargy.

Encouragingly, perhaps, he seemed able to keep his fuse from reaching the bomb package, something a player like Bakkies Botha has not always managed; he could be too blatant in his skulduggery and thus prone to referees’ cards.

But he seems a fitting, next-generation addition, all the same, to a theory in Cape Town’s gritty northern suburbs that “you don’t mess with an Etzebeth” if you value your health.

I am old enough to recall the exploits and tales (sporting, often, but perhaps not all for family reading ...) of a swollen family of Etzebeth brothers in the 1970s and 1980s, of whom Cliffie, a former WP lock and prop, was probably the most renowned.

He was a policeman and also prolific amateur wrestler, who probably suffered a little from being that unfortunate in-between height, so whether he was best suited to tighthead or the second row was always a matter for conjecture.

What was never in dispute about Eben Etzebeth’s uncle, however, was his toughness between the chalk and in life ... even if Alan Solomons, once coaching at UCT, would always insist that he “never thought of Cliffie as dirty” even in rugby clashes during turbulent political times between the students and police teams. (Keep in mind that Eben played Varsity Cup rugby for UCT only last year.)

In 2011, the presumably now advanced-age Cliffie was still racking up wrestling medals: Villagers Rugby Club, who he represented in the year they won the Easter Club Championships under Morne du Plessis’ leadership in 1980, lauded him in a news-letter for becoming a world freestyle veterans’ world champion.

Cliffie was close to another truculent, first league club-level tight forward brother, Skattie, who was shot dead in Belhar in 1993 while on debt-collection duty.

You didn’t want to get on the wrong side of either; for the benefit of Afrikaans readers, here is a fitting gem of an observation I unearthed off a blog: “Dis asof die Goodwood-sportklub se kroeg effe stiller raak toe Cliffie Etzebeth by die deur instap ...”

Interestingly, SA Under-21 product Eben is the son of Harry, one of the galaxy of brothers, but whose sporting achievements were apparently rather more modest.

But in the form either of Eben Etzebeth or the mauler for Montagu, Elstadt, the Stormers No 4 jersey looks like being in the hands of a notably no-nonsense customer for some time to come, which some pundits would call a breath of fresh air, in its own way.

The million-dollar question in the minds of cynics, however, may well be this: How long will a franchise notorious for surrendering talent hold onto both of them?

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


  • Sargon - 2012-02-28 13:31

    This is the one team I would not mind being dropped from S15.

      Saffa - 2012-02-28 13:40

      Drop the Stormers old chap? Yes, old chap, the Stormers will be dropped when Spies effectively tackles an opponent.......Enjoy the wait, and make sure your cooler bag is full - eternity is a long time to wait. (Perhaps if you summoned the pink fairy who lives in the potato bush at the bottom of your garden, she would give you some sparkly fairy dust to sprinkle on the ground as you click your red crocs together and wish: "Drop the Stormers, Drop the Stormers"...????? Use it, don't use it. STORMERSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

      Lionel - 2012-02-28 13:41

      Someone must have dropped you!!!

      danie.kroezen - 2012-02-28 13:43

      Is that fear or stupidest????????

      S - 2012-02-28 13:45

      Scared, Sargon? You should be.

      andre.ernstzen - 2012-02-28 13:45

      Ya right, drop the Stormers. The best supported Super Rugby franchise

      Sean - 2012-02-28 13:49

      New Season - Lot`s of ``talk`` of how this is going to be ``our year`` !!! Suppose if you keep on saying it every year it might happen , well it didn`t happen for many years , LOL !!!!

      Saffa - 2012-02-28 13:58

      Are you talking about the Sharks @Sean?

      S - 2012-02-28 13:59

      Sean, where on earth did you read this? You mention "lots of talk", I googled, but cannot find it anywhere. Or is it your astute rugby mind that's telling you that this might be the Stormers' year?

      Darren - 2012-02-28 14:02

      love your churps Sargon…can't believe people take the bait!

      Selma - 2012-02-28 14:19

      Maybe that is the kick in the butt they and management need. I am sick to death of their poor performances. They are a disgrace to WP rugby. The once mighty union has become the laughing stock of SA Rugby. The Bulls dug themselves out of a hole, as did the Lions and Cheetas and Sharks but WP just keeps on floundering. I am surprised De Jongh and Aplon have not backed their bags - they deserve real forwards.

      Charl - 2012-02-28 14:25

      if you drop the stormers then sa only have the sharks left in super rugby coz lately the bulls were also no where and i cant see them being somewhere this season aswell

      Saffa - 2012-02-28 14:27

      @Selma - and where do you think Gio and Juan are going to find better forwards at THIS stage Cinderella? At the Bulls, with Spies and Flip flop? At the Sharks with Kanko and Keego? As for being the so-called "laughing stock" of SA rugby, fortunately for the Stormers, the Bulls made Spies captain and brought out a pink jersey....the joke is most certainly NOT on the Cape team.....

      Shnez - 2012-02-28 15:31

      Thats a stupid comment man!!!! Really!!!?????

  • Saffa - 2012-02-28 13:31

    We also have Quinn Roux.........another fine enforcing No 4......As per usual we won't be able to keep them all. Elstadt is a 7......and THAT is where he should be playing Coetzee!!!!!

      Lionel - 2012-02-28 13:42

      Saffa,that run of Eben's Saturday knocking that Canes centre flying was something that we have not seen for a while!!!!! Hope AC reads your

      Bulldozer - 2012-02-28 13:48

      Another superstar. Yaaaaaaawn.

      Lionel - 2012-02-28 13:53

      Dozey,who's the Bulls next superstar,Fudge Mabeta????

      Bulldozer - 2012-02-28 13:58

      Jy weet dit, Lionel.

      Saffa - 2012-02-28 14:01

      @Lionel - Dozey is the Bulls next superstar......I find very few other legitimate candidates waiting in the wings....? Venter possibly, but he plays like Meisie....Maybe Stander or Botha, but they won't get any gametime - EVER, cos Spies has to start.

      Lionel - 2012-02-28 14:09

      What about Flip"yellow card"van der Merwe??? Saffa,I like that youngster Venter,I would play him anytime before Meisiekind!! I think Spies is hoping to get the Bok captaincy,if not he will go to Europe next year!!!!!

      Bulldozer - 2012-02-28 14:11

      Saffa, I've always been a superstar.

      Clive - 2012-02-29 11:09

      @Lionel. The next Bulls superstar is Etsebeth, when he too will be poached from the WP nursery.

  • Selma - 2012-02-28 13:59

    Jan Boland Coetzee was tough as nails. Do Etzebeths who are not hemelbesems exist?.

      steyts - 2012-02-29 09:27


  • manicmanta - 2012-02-28 14:05

    the Bulls have a permanent factory of locks and have always been like that. And they make them just a bit harder in the Bulls factory

      Saffa - 2012-02-28 14:16

      Well that 'factory' is in financial k#k at the moment old chap....Productivity is running at about 2%...

      S - 2012-02-28 14:48

      'Scuse me? Only Matfield was home grown. Bakkies was a KZN boy (Newcastle). Of your current crop, no one is home grown. Mabeta is a Yank, Juandré Kruger comes from the Cape, Wilhelm Steenkamp is from Calvinia, and Flippie is a Freestater. Bullbarians all.

      FeF Francois Gericke - 2012-02-28 15:08

      And even Matfield made his Superrugby debut for the Cats.

      Martin - 2012-02-28 16:41

      What about Flip 'it' I got another yellow card?! He's awesome! (when he plays for the other team!) :-D

      vincent.vanzyl - 2012-02-28 21:03

      Actually matfield was originally from Griquas. So he is also not bulls grown. So, you comment just shows how much you know about rugby and its history. All the bulls best players were not homegrown. Habana (Lions), Hougaard(WP), Steyn(WP), etc. Just to name a few more

      Stormers - 2012-02-28 23:51

      Uhm Vincent, not to p!ss on your parade genius, but a few corrections. Morne Steyn is from the Free State, Matfield from Polokwane. So in closing, shows how much you know about rugby apparantly. In future, dont be arrogant, you just draw unwanted attention to yourself.

      vincent.vanzyl - 2012-02-29 08:09

      @Stormers. No worries. But to piss on my parade you need to be correct. Yes, victor was born in polokwane, but steyn was from cape town my friend. So you might want to check your facts before you piss on a battery

      Bertus - 2012-02-29 11:38

      @Vincent, sorry dude but Steyn went to Sand du Plessis High school in Bloemfontein.

  • PatPion - 2012-02-28 14:09

    Yes, this kid has Springbok written all over him!

      Bulldozer - 2012-02-28 14:12

      He better clean it off before his mommy sees it.

      Saffa - 2012-02-28 14:14

      ROTFLMAO @Dozey.

  • James Parker - 2012-02-28 14:20

    Drop the Bulls. cos super rugby has no place for fairies dressed in pink!

      Bulldozer - 2012-02-28 15:07

      I hope your father doesn't watch rugby.

  • Daniel - 2012-02-28 15:16

    Best 4 locks(2x enforcers and 2x Open locks) in the country comes from the Cape, all played age group rugby for Province, two enforcers are Reinhardt Elstadt and Eben Etzebeth whilst the two open locks are Andries Bekker and Juandre Kruger, obviously old Juandre is no longer in the Cape and was purchased by the folks in the UK and then the Bulls..same thing they did with old Hottie Louw shame

  • Ockie - 2012-02-28 17:01

    This boy got what it takes and is a real prospect for the future. he had an impressive start to Super Rugby .I rate him much higher than Elstadt. Elstadt should play 7, but the Stormers wanted an enforcer and conferted the guy to lock. At provincial level it will work, but he will always be found lacking (weight and hight) at lock at test rugby level.

  • Leon - 2012-02-28 17:27

    Just keep these two boys in the Cape !

  • Saffa - 2012-02-28 20:34

    This is my Bok-team for England. What do you guys think? 1) Werner Kruger 2) Bismarck 3) Greyling 4) Juandre Kruger 5) Flip vd Merwe 6) Stegman 7) Juan 8) Pierre Spies (captain) 9) Hogaardt 10) Morne 11) Mvovo 12) Andries Struass 13) Wynand Olivier 14) JP Pieterson/Basson 15) Zane

      Kaerie - 2012-02-28 20:45

      Too many sharks

      Joachim - 2012-02-28 20:53

      Ha ha jy is siek jou mal d@@s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Saffa - 2012-02-28 21:18

      @Joachim Where can it improve?

      vincent.vanzyl - 2012-02-28 21:36

      That is worse the Divvies team. Stegman is one of the worst number 6's in SA, Spies is useless. Did not even see him in the sharks game. Other than when he walked onto and off from the field. Wynand Olivier is also useless. JP Pieterson super overrated and terrible, would rather see Basson there, but he did not prove himself at international level. And zane is probably the worst rugby player of all time. My team: 1. Werner Kruger 2. Bismarck 3. Dean Greyling 4. Etzebeth (Might be a bit early to say, but looking good so far) 5. Andries Bekker 6. Schalk Burger / Kolisi 7. Juan Smit 8. Duane Vermeulen 9. Hougaardt 10. Goosen 11. Mvovo 12. Juan De Villiers (Over-rated, but little other options with current local players) 13. Juan De Jong 14. Gio Aplon 15. Joe Pieterson A mix of youngsters and experience

      Heiku - 2012-02-28 21:50

      I think that team is worse than any S15 team. Absolutely horrible. No need to point out why.

      Heiku - 2012-02-28 21:53

      Oh I just realised what's going on. You're the NZ supporter from the cape arent you? Why do you NZ supporters need the Springboks to fail? Miserable people I tell you.

      Saffa - 2012-02-29 07:59

      Why are you faking my profile again DOCTOR DEATH?

      Clive - 2012-02-29 11:15

      @Saffa. Do you know nothing about rugby, boet? Zane??Meisiekind???Spies captain???Stegman??? Yoh!!!

      Brevan - 2012-02-29 14:09

      I think too many Stormers in the side! Anyone that visits the forums regularly knows that the post was not by Saffa! Come on dude, why not use your own profile?

  • Joe - 2012-02-29 03:23

    1. Greyling 2. Bissie 3. Kruger 4. Bekker 5. Kruger 6. Brussouw 7. Juan Smith (C) 8. Strauss 9. Hougaard 10. Steyn 11. Mvovo 12. Steyn 13. Ebersohn 14. JP Pietersen 15. Pietersen

      Anele - 2012-02-29 06:39

      replace Peterson at 15 with Lambie, Bekker at 4 with Etzebeth, Ebersohn at 13 with deJongh and that is a pretty good team

      steyts - 2012-02-29 09:29

      @Anele, Etzebeth and Bekker should play 4 and 5.. Die res lyk vir my oraait...

  • Ockie - 2012-02-29 06:49

    If you pick a team now it would differ from the one that could play due to injuries eg. Juan is still not fit to play, Schalk got injured, etc. Normally these two would make the final selection. The positions that is not clear however would be: 15) I prefer Lambie at fullback. 11) Habana is not what he was, maybe Mvovo 12) F Steyn if they pick oversea based players 8) Spies is out of form. Alberts would be my choice 4) A partner for Bekker. No clear choise here. VD Merwe gives to many penalties. 1) Should be Beast if he's fit but on present form (early in the season) Greyling really impress. The rest would be the usual pick of the last year.

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