CAPE TOWN – How will the Stormers’ lineout do without Bongi Mbonambi?
It’s not an ideal situation, but this weekend, when they take on the Waratahs in Sydney in their first game of a three-match tour to Australasia, they’re going to find out.
In Mbonambi’s absence, Stormers coach Robbie Fleck named Ramone Samuels - who was a late replacement for Mbonambi against the Jaguares at the weekend, and Dean Muir in his 27-man squad for the tour.
While Fleck was pleased with Samuels’ performance in open play at Newlands and impressed with Muir’s debut work, it’s going to take more than a decent lineout performance against the Crusaders and Highlanders, who the Stormers face after their game at the Sydney Football Stadium.
The set-piece is obviously one of the Stormers’ strengths, and they will need every bit of strength they can get to make the most of their three games on tour.
So, can the Stormers’ lineout rule without Mbonambi?
Fleck’s side are of course already without the presence, muscle and pure ability of Bok lock duo Eben Etzebeth, while Pieter-Steph du Toit has been cleared to run out this weekend. And although injury to Etzebeth is always a blow, last week’s solid outings from man of the match JD Schickerling and Chris van Zyl did enough to prevent a full-out lineout panic situation. Imagine how bad it would have been had the two of them failed to impress?
Couple that situation with skew and overthrown balls, and the Stormers’ lineout would be a disaster. A couple of Samuels’ throws went skew, handing the Jaguares the scrum, and he also overthrew his jumper, and that simply cannot happen on tour.
I know Mbonambi was a late withdrawal and that Samuels probably didn’t spend as much time with the jumpers as would have been ideal for someone starting a game, but things have to be different in Australia this Saturday.
Whether the Stormers simplify their lineout calls or find a quick solution to their lineout wobbles, they have to do better against the Tahs. On Saturday we saw how hard work and possession can go lost if you don’t get it right at the lineout, and it wouldn’t be very pleasant if we have to witness the Waratahs use that spilt or skew ball to get maximum reward.
So hopefully there won’t be any crooked moments from the Stormers - at the lineouts or anywhere else on the field.