CAPE TOWN - Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says they’re going to have to manage their second-row resources carefully as they prepare for their home game against the Blues on Saturday (3.05pm kickoff).
The Stormers are running low on lock stocks with Eben Etzebeth being injured (and his return date indefinite), while promising forward JD Schickerling and Chris van Zyl are also on the injury list.
Following their return to Cape Town after failing to secure a win on their tour to Australasia, Fleck was particularly impressed with Salmaan Moerat - who was called to New Zealand amid a second-row injury crisis and made his debut off the bench in impressive style against the Highlanders.
Pieter-Steph du Toit - who missed out against the Highlanders after taking a blow to the head against the Crusaders - is fit for the clash at Newlands against Tana Umaga’s outfit.
And while the Stormers mentor is pleased with the efforts of Jan de Klerk and Van Zyl - who stood in the absence of the Springbok lock duo - he is happy to have Du Toit back.
“Pieter-Steph is looking fully fit and recovered, and he is a boost to the squad,” Fleck said at a press conference in Bellville on Tuesday.
“In saying that, I think that Jan de Klerk, Chris van Zyl and Salmaan Moerat did a good job at the weekend, in particular Salmaan - he had a really good game for such a young kid. I think the boys were really impressed with the attitude that he came in with. But it’s good to know what we’ve got now in terms of depth.
“And I think the important thing now is that we manage him like we did with Damian Willemse last year - we don’t want to push him too hard or too early. We’ll give him those opportunities when they come around. It’s awesome to see a 20-year-old perform like that under difficult circumstances.
“So with our lock situation we’re going to have to be quite careful with how we manage that over the next couple of weeks. There’s a few challenges in the lock department, so we may have to look at a few alternative measures. There’s Cobus Wiese who can maybe cover there or Kobus van Dyk, but the way Salmaan and Jan de Klerk are going there, we’re pretty good with the locks we’ve got at the moment.”
The Cape side are also in a predicament at the back, after SP Marais’ rib injury - which could see him miss this weekend’s action - and Seabelo Senatla’s groin injury, which is expected to rule him out for up to six weeks.
Fleck confirmed that Dillyn Leyds is likely to start at No 15, and said that JJ Engelbrecht is likely to come in at wing, while they also have Craig Barry available.
“It’s unfortunate that Dillyn has had to move around a lot, he hasn’t been able to settle in. We’re going to have to make some changes again - SP looks like he’s going to be out for two weeks and Seabelo could be out for six weeks,” the Stormers mentor said.
“Dillyn understands the position that we’re in and I’m grateful that he can move around for us. It’s not easy making those changes, but we’ve got JJ who can cover both centre and wing, and we’ve got Craig Barry back in the squad from the Cheetahs, so he gives us some options going forward.”
Regarding the tour, Fleck said that he believes it was an improved trip compared to last year - where the Stormers lost harshly to the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Highlanders. “It was a far better tour for us than what we had last year,” he said.
“In the Waratahs game we were leading at one stage and it was locked at the death, we made an error and they scored a good try to beat us at the end. We felt fairly disappointed that we didn’t win that game, and we felt that we weren’t playing at our best, but we were still good enough to win that game.
“Against the Crusaders in the first 20 minutes they fed off our mistakes, but in the last 60 minutes we were the dominant side. And with the last game we were leading 14-5 or whatever it was and we got another linebreak and Ben Smith was off his feet and we could have got a penalty there to go up, but it was a different game. We made a mistake and they scored a try, but we let ourselves down and suddenly they get an opportunity to score.
“We certainly grew on tour, and with every single game we improved. We’re pretty confident that we’re on the right track and that we’re playing good football.”