The loss of Rynhardt Elstadt has affected the balance of the Stormers pack ahead of their match against the Lions at Ellis Park. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
The Stormers will travel to Johannesburg this weekend without the combative flanker, after he was ruled out for at least four months with a broken leg suffered in the victory over the Blues. Nizaam Carr, who replaced Elstadt in the 37th minute of the match, is expected to take over the No 6 jersey.
It's a role that Carr filled well during the course of the 2014 Vodacom Super Rugby season. However, with Eben Etzebeth still at least a week away from a return, the dynamic of the Stormers pack will change somewhat.
Their victory over the Bulls was built on physical domination up front, while their opponents this week were outmuscled for much of the match against the Sharks. Carr is a talented player and will bring a more subtle approach, but Elstadt's pure physicality will be missed.
'It's not going to be easy to replace a player like Rynhardt Elstadt and what he brings,' admitted Coetzee. 'We just need to make sure we get that balance right. Jurie [van Vuuren] has a massive work rate around the pitch, but maybe he doesn't have the same physical intensity at this level.'
'But I'm very happy with Jurie. He may not be the tallest, but he's quite effective. Michael Rhodes also offers us great versatility, and it's just a matter of time before we get Eben and Manuel Carizza back.'
Coetzee also announced that Schalk Burger will return to the fold next week. The Springbok flank's arrival takes on another dimension, with Duane Vermeulen due to be rested in the next three weeks.
'When Schalk is here, we'll assess. We know Duane has to be rested [in accordance with Saru requirements], but it's good to have an extra guy who can support the current leadership group.
'You have to do your rotation when it's the right time to do it. You rotate when there's momentum going forward. You can't just rotate when you lose, because it's almost like you're dropping players.'
As for Saturday's match against the Lions – Coetzee is under no illusions about the task at hand. Both teams will boast sides strikingly similar to the two that competed last year's Currie Cup final, a match the Lions perhaps should've won on the day.
'This is the difficulty of this competition – one week is a physical clash against a New Zealand side and now the Lions will offer something a bit different,' said Coetzee.
'The Lions haven't had the start they would've wanted. They play a width game, a passing game. They show great continuity on attack, where they can hold onto the ball for phases.
'They are desperately trying to get points on the board, which makes them a dangerous side.'
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