Jones hails Stormers’ lock strength

Stormers coach Eddie Jones believes young locks Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit have their best rugby ahead of them, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

The Stormers’ second-row options are set to be the envy of teams around the world, with Du Toit having opted to leave the Sharks to move to Cape Town, where he will join forces with Etzebeth in next year’s Vodacom Super Rugby season.

Etzebeth already has 44 Test caps to his name at just 24 years of age, while Du Toit, 23, has featured eight times for the Boks, and Jones said this duo had immense potential.

‘I met those two blokes on Monday, and the two of them together are bigger than the whole Japan team,’ he joked. ‘But seriously, they’re big, physical, athletic guys who have their best rugby ahead of them, although there are also areas of their game that both can work on and improve.

'It’s going to be a little bit harder with Eben because he’s going to be in Japan [with the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes until early next year], but certainly with Pieter-Steph we’ll be able to start working on his skill levels immediately. It’s just so exciting to have two locks like that, a traditional left-hand side lock and a jumping right-hand side lock.’

Jones said he was also excited by the prospect of working with a youthful squad.

‘We haven’t got too many blokes with a scarcity of hair, it’s a very young squad. We’re going to have to develop these players slowly. If you look across the squad, we’ve got good front-rowers, someone like Frans [Malherbe] was exceptional at the World Cup, so you’ve got the base of a good scrum. Then you’ve got Etzebeth and Du Toit in the second row, so you’ve also got the base for a good lineout. In the back row, you’ve got Schalk [Burger], [Siya] Kolisi, [Rynhardt] Elstadt and [Nizaam] Carr, so there’s good depth there. Then the backs are exciting, and the depth is exceptional. So we’ve just got to get them to understand how we want them to play.’

The former Japan and Wallabies coach spoke of his ambitions for the Stormers to embrace an attractive high-tempo brand of rugby, and highlighted the importance of the halfback combination in this regard.

‘You saw someone like Dan Carter, who probably played his most consistent Test rugby from the age of 28 to 33, when he’s been through it all and learned it all. It takes time for young flyhalves to develop, and we’re looking at guys here at the Stormers who are in their early 20s, so they will go through some pain and we have to accept that. But we’ve got to allow them to go through that and work with them, and then they’ll be very good players, there’s no shortcut to developing good nines and 10s.’

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis