Malherbe back but still no Etzebeth

rugby19 February 2019 05:48| © Cycle Lab
By:JJ Harmse
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Eben Etzebeth © Gallo Images
The DHL Stormers have a clutch of players coming back into the selection frame ahead of their crucial first home Vodacom Super Rugby clash with the Emirates Lions but there is still no sign of Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth.

Bok tighthead prop Frans Malherbe, utility forward Cobus Wiese and last year’s top try scorer in the Currie Cup, Sergeal Petersen, were all in the thick of things as the Stormers trained in sweltering heat at the High Performance Centre in Bellville. Assistant coach Dawie Snyman confirmed that all three will be in the frame to play against the Lions at Newlands as the Stormers look to atone for their disappointing opening loss to the Bulls in Pretoria.

However, when it comes to the physical and highly promising No 8 Juarno Augustus, the Stormers will have to wait a few days before being sure whether he can play or not.

“We have Cobus back, but when it comes to Trokkie (Augustus) it looks like we may have to wait a day or two,” said Snyman.

“Frans had his first training session (subsequent to the injury picked up in the warm-up fixture against the Boland Cavaliers) today, and Sergeal Petersen is also training. But it doesn’t look like Eben is going to make it for this week.

The return of Wiese will add to the Stormers’ forward depth, something that was badly undermined for the Pretoria trip, and he is a good option for the second row. Although he has in the past played a lot of his rugby for the Stormers as a blindside flank, he has produced some particularly noteworthy performances as a No 4 lock - which may be precisely where the Stormers need him in the continued absence of Etzebeth.

Salmaan Moerat, who started in Pretoria, and Chris van Zyl are also options there, and the Stormers do boast a lot of depth in the position, but Wiese may bring the physical edge the Stormers need as they go out to cut the presence and set up the forward platform they failed to manage at Loftus.

Augustus, when he is fit, has to surely slot into the match day 23, though coach Robbie Fleck should give some serious consideration to calling up Jaco Coetzee. The Glenwood High School old boy was impressive in the pre-season and may bring the gainline tenacity that the Stormers lacked in Pretoria.

The Stormers lack a specialist fetcher, and while you wouldn’t describe Coetzee as a specialist fetcher, he has been good when utilised as an openside in the past and is the menace to the opposition that a player wearing the No 6 (in South Africa and openside wears 6) should be.

Augustus should certainly be selected, perhaps even as the starting No 8, should he be declared fit, but the chances of that happening may be minimal if he wasn’t at the first training session of the week. In his absence, Coetzee may be the next best bet.