Injured Springbok lock Etzebeth to be ready to play for SA in June

2014-03-19 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The good news is that Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth will be ready to play for South Africa in June but it’s still a big question whether he would be able to give the critical momentum needed by the Stormers for their Super Rugby campaign.

The Springbok ironman, who earlier suffered a serious ankle injury, yesterday told Die Burger, sister newspaper of The Witness, that he hopes to make his comeback for the Stormers on May 31 against the Sharks in Durban.

That is the Cape Town team’s third to last league match and many supporters already doubt whether their team will still be contenders by that time. If so, Etzebeth’s return will be a big boost to the Stormers’ campaign for the title.

Meanwhile, Etzebeth still faces hard work. “I still have two weeks to undergo rehabilitation in Stellenbosch and will consult with a specialist at the end of this month. The screw [in his ankle] will be removed on April 2,” he said yesterday.

“I am already walking with comfort, exercising on the spinning bicycle and rowing. I feel I am improving.

“Hopefully I will get enough playing time to stake a claim for June’s Test matches.”

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer will have a golden opportunity to sharpen Etzebeth’s fitness level when the Springboks play against a World 15 team in the Cape Town stadium on June 7.

It will mean that Etzebeth would have played in two matches prior to South Africa’s first Test of the year against Wales on June 14.

It has been a very frustrating month for Etzebeth, who had to watch how his Stormers team struggled from the sidelines. “It has been a frustrating affair,” he said.

“You would like to be there and help motivate them. One year it was [a problem] with the flyhalves and now it’s the locks who are struggling with injuries.

“One, however, cannot make excuses. All you have to do is to select the next best guy in that position and move forward.

“I am in any case convinced the guys will beat the Brumbies this weekend. I believe in them.”

With De Kock Steenkamp now also on the injury list, the Stormers will probably select Michael Rhodes and Ruan Botha as the lock combination for Saturday’s game against the Brumbies.

The only other possibility would be to move Duane Vermeulen from number eight to lock, or use rookie Jurie van Vuuren in this position.

It is also possible that Peter Grant will play his first game since the semi-finals in 2012 and could start as flyhalf for the Stormers against the Sharks.

He only played — coming off the bench — in two matches last year before he too was injured.

Although Grant has often been criticised for his kicking game, he has been for a number of seasons one of South Africa’s most underrated players.

His goal-kicking accuracy has been unequalled in the country while he has the possibility to play close to the advantage line.

This could make the Stormers — with ball in the hand — a more dangerous team than with Demetri Catrakilis in the number 10 jersey.

The Stormers will naturally miss Catrakilis’s field kicking. However, it makes sense to move into another direction and the selection of Grant could be that.

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