Why Stormers need Elstadt starting

    2016-05-25 18:33

    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town – The ego-dented Stormers need to find a way speedily to accommodate both of their primary “enforcer” forwards, Eben Etzebeth and Rynhardt Elstadt, in the same starting line-up.

    An ideal beginning to that initiative would be for this Saturday, and a must-win derby against the Cheetahs – who may feel they have a puncher’s chance under current circumstances -- at Newlands (15:00).

    Elstadt was curtailed to a substitute’s role in the damaging 17-13 Vodacom Super Rugby defeat to the Bulls at Loftus last Saturday, and fielded glaringly out of position as open-side flank the previous week against the Sunwolves when the Stormers salvaged a desperately disappointing 17-17 draw at the death.

    Frankly, both moves were ill-advised and arguably costly.

    The earthy, no-frills Elstadt is a versatile forward … but that versatility needs to be limited to easily his two most obvious positions, blindside flank or No 4 lock.

    He is the franchise’s best equivalent to a Danie Rossouw – the uncomplaining, now-retired former Bulls and Springbok stalwart – in that respect, and they should be exploiting his strengths better.

    Given their lack of a truly specialist fetcher, you can hardly blame the Stormers coaching staff for occasionally resorting to Elstadt, among others this season, to try to fill that particular berth.

    He is an abrasive, direct character but has a higher centre of gravity than most “burrowers” and his deployment there has seldom paid dividends.

    Far better a policy would be to make use of his ball-carrying strength, knock-back tackling and zealous “cleaning out” at No 7.

    The incumbent of that jersey is Siya Kolisi, but a personal view was that, for all his huge talents, the man from Zwide in the Eastern Cape was the least visible Stormers loose forward (Nizaam Carr and Schalk Burger were the others in the mix) on a day when the Bulls a little unexpectedly ruled the roost in that area, led by a ferocious young Jannes Kirsten.

    Burger has an ankle problem which could keep him out of the Cheetahs clash, and if that is the case the Stormers may be best served by a loose trio of Carr (at open-side), Elstadt in his ideal blind-side role and the tearaway Sikhumbuzo Notshe – he looked lively off the Loftus bench – as eighthman, with Springbok Kolisi offering impact as a substitute.

    I felt that the Stormers upset the applecart as early as the relatively ill-fated Sunwolves match where, even before Etzebeth’s return from injury, they took Elstadt out of the front lock role -- despite his excellent covering of that chore against the Reds and Waratahs -- and fielded the still callow JD Schickerling.

    Then, by limiting him to the bench in the north-south derby, they inadvertently aided the Bulls in their (successful) quest for dominance of the collisions.

    Before Elstadt made a belated entry to the combat in the second half, and with fellow meanie Etzebeth feeling his way gradually back into things for only the first 40 minutes after his layoff, the Bulls were making thumping tackles on Stormers carriers and often rattling and niggling them even more by keeping them pinned to the turf for a few seconds afterwards.

    Elstadt was having none of that: apart from piling into a few breakdowns with customary relish, when one Bulls tackler tried the pin-down trick on him, he flipped him over almost judo-like to signal his immediate displeasure.

    It was that sort of “mongrel” that the Capetonians seemed to lack for too long at Loftus.

    The Montagu High School-educated scrapper deserves better than another place among the subs this Saturday.

    *The Stormers team is to be announced on Thursday.

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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