The Stormers are finally considering signing a new lock to help deal with the current lineout crisis in which they find themselves.
Coach Allister Coetzee said yesterday during a media briefing in Bellville that he has been in discussions about the matter with Western Province director of rugby Gert Smal. It is unclear whether a suitable candidate has been identified yet, as initial feelers put out to Ireland-based former WP lock Quinn Roux did not progress to any meaningful level.
Former Sharks stalwart Steven Sykes, who is part of the EP Kings side at the moment, has also turned WP down as he wants to stick with the Kings for their upcoming reintroduction to the Currie Cup Premier Division later this year. Andries Bekker’s injury insurance is also too hefty for the Stormers to seriously consider bringing the big man home for just a few weeks, as the likes of Eben Etzebeth and Manuel Carizza are due back in about three weeks’ time.
“Currently, Gert and I are discussing that and I’m sure that he has taken that up. But also, someone outside the system – to come in, how long is it going to take him to get up to speed?” Coetzee asked yesterday.
“Duane has played there for us, and even Schalk is prepared to have a go at lock. There is Tazz (Fuzani) still in the system. So one has to make a decision, and we are in the process of discussing that.”
But while the Stormers are looking for someone, it has come too late as any faint hopes of a playoff spot this year evaporated with their 35-22 defeat to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. Coetzee said that while it was the defence that was the major cause of their problems at the weekend, the scrums and lineouts contributed hugely to the situation.
“Set-piece will always be the number-one thing, because when you lose your lineout ball, you defend your own ball again. If you keep defending, you get tired. And I was thinking why we were so flat-footed – it was because of that. Or you concede a scrum penalty, and you have to defend that lineout in your own half again. That’s the ripple effect,” he said.
“Last week we were much better at set-piece time than what we were this week, and that is a bit of a frustration. And I know we are missing players and that we don’t want to talk about it week-in and week-out. But it’s a reality that we’ve got five locks out – Eben, Carizza, Rynhardt, De Kock Steenkamp and Gerbrandt Grobler. That’s our top five locks who have played Super Rugby.
“Now you are sitting with a promising Jean Kleyn, who is also out, and then you’ve got to go to an inexperienced Ruan Botha, who played Under-21s last year. It’s such a vital position in terms of who is scrumming behind you, or making sure there is lineout dominance.
“I wonder sometimes, when a Bismarck is out of a Sharks side, can a team really (function properly)? Then you realise again that a two is your spine, a two is a very important guy when it comes to the set-piece.
“And there we are sitting with Deon, who is playing his heart out week-in and week-out – he is a tiger, a fighter. But he’s our third hooker, and he’s one of the best opensiders.”
And the Stormers’ defence will again come under enormous pressure from the Highlanders, who toppled the log-leading Sharks 34-18 in a bonus-point triumph. They boast one of the most exciting new talents in the competition in the shape of outside centre Malakai Fekitoa, who scored another superb individualistic try in Durban last Friday.
Of course, All Blacks star Ben Smith has also been a key figure on attack for the Otago side, having also taken over the captaincy this season.
Craig Joubert will once again be in charge of a Stormers game when he blows the whistle at Newlands this weekend.
Meanwhile, with regards to Deon Fourie’s possible move to French club Lyon following a report in a French newspaper that he has already agreed terms with the club, WP director of rugby Gert Smal told the Cape Times: “I am aware that Deon would like go to France sometime in his rugby career. However, I’m told no terms have been agreed.” - Cape Times