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Etzebeth critical to Stormers’ hopes

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Eben Etzebeth (Getty)
Eben Etzebeth (Getty)

Cape Town – Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck faces a tough balancing act, particularly over the next few weeks, in his use of Springbok second-row gem Eben Etzebeth.

Etzebeth was simply colossal in their Super Rugby season-opening triumph over old enemies the Bulls; for what it’s worth, he would have been this writer’s choice for player-of-the-match above flyhalf Robert du Preez, even if the young pivot ticked plenty of boxes in what is widely considered a problematic slot for the franchise this year.

The 24-year-old produced about as complete a performance as you could wish for from a No 4 lock, bristling with physical intent and unceasing appetite for graft in the tight-loose, causing havoc on the Bulls’ lineout throw-in, aiding the Stormers’ scrummaging and mauling mastery with his enviable power, and adding a try with a charge for the line that combined brute strength with athleticism and a clever eye for the correct hole to probe.
Perhaps not widely enough appreciated, also, is that Etzebeth is increasingly learning, as he matures, to channel his inbuilt aggression properly: players of his mould will always flirt with the boundaries of the laws, but he is mostly doing a sound job these days in escaping yellow-card censure and the like.  

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