Ashfak Mohamed

EBEN ETZEBETH is not seriously injured but is unlikely to play against the Lions, while No8 Jebb Sinclair has returned from Canada and will be ready for Saturday’s Super Rugby derby at Newlands.

Stormers forwards coach Matthew Proudfoot said yesterday that the X-ray on Etzebeth’s injured ankle showed no signs of any major problem but, due to the enormous workload the 20-year-old has had to cope with in his first season of Super and Test rugby, he may not feature on Saturday.

“We will have a look at Eben’s situation again. This is a perfect opportunity just to give him a break. We’ve put his ankle in a boot to let it settle down, but there is nothing seriously wrong with him,” Proudfoot said.

“The plan is to play him off the bench, but if he is still sore later in the week, then Quinn (Roux) can just come on to the bench.”

Etzebeth’s likely absence is offset by the return of line-out master Andries Bekker, and Proudfoot couldn’t hide his excitement of having the Bok giant in the second row again. “The mood that Andries is in is so good for us. Physically he is looking good, and that’s great for us right now. I think it was good for Andries to see that we backed the other guys when he couldn’t play, and we were prepared to go to Pretoria without him, which was a big call to make. He didn’t have to carry a massive injury into that game,” he said.

“That was good to know from a player’s perspective, that the coaches are prepared to look after him and back him. When he is fit, he will play at a 110percent, and it is too much to ask of a player, when he is 60percent, to compete at the top level. I think that gives him a lot of confidence, to know that we respect him like that.”

With the injury crisis continuing at loose forward, Sinclair’s return to the Cape will ensure that the Stormers will at least have some continuity in the loose trio.

The Canadian Test No8 said on Twitter yesterday that he had the “longest travel days of my life” in a punishing 35-hour trip from Vancouver to Cape Town.

“Jebb has arrived and trained with the team today. He is in good shape. He is tired obviously after a trans-Atlantic flight from Canada, but he is still feeling good. He had three good weeks with Canada in the Test arena – they played well against Italy but lost the game, and won the other two against USA and Georgia,” Proudfoot said.

Proudfoot confirmed that Don Armand would make his first start for the Stormers in Super Rugby at No7, alongside Sinclair and Siya Kolisi in the loose trio. Armand has shown that he can handle the pace of Super Rugby in the appearances he’s made as substitute.

“Don has done really well every time he has come on for us. He has been with us for a long time now, going back to the 2010 Currie Cup, when he trained with us even without a contract. He trained and travelled with the team,” the former Scotland Test prop said.

“The players have a lot of trust in him, and he is very fit – he is one of the fittest forwards we have. He has a high work-rate as well, and the guys have a lot of confidence in him. Don is a jumper in the line-outs as well. He is busy around the field and is also a good defender, which are all things you need.”

Proudfoot added that Joe Pietersen again sat out of training yesterday, but insisted that the fullback would play on Saturday as it would be “crazy for him to train in this weather with a cold”.