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Sun Oct 23 01:35:24 SAST 2016

In the shoes of Bakkies, Matfield

Craig Ray | 29 February, 2016 00:31
POWER: Stormers lock Pieter-Steph du Toit charges at defenders during the Super Rugby game against the Bulls at Newlands on Saturday
Image by: Gallo Images

It was telling that vanquished Bulls coach Nollis Marais singled out Stormers locks Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit as two of the major reasons for his team's 33-9 defeat at Newlands on Saturday.

As Marais picked over the bones of the loss, he said with an air of resignation: "We knew our set piece would come under pressure. Eben and Pieter-Steph showed their class.

"You can have thousands of plans but if you can't win a scrum and lineout you can't win a game."

The Etzebeth-Du Toit combination has come with much hype. The pair of Springboks lived up to that pressure with commanding displays as the Stormers won their fourth consecutive Super Rugby match against the Bulls.

Etzebeth pressured the Bulls lineout mercilessly and was immense in the loose. Du Toit dominated the air on his own lineout ball and was also classy with the ball in hand.

The two, who have been touted as the logical heirs apparent to Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield for the last two years, are supreme athletes in giant bodies and both have great skill and aggression. It was Du Toit's pop pass, from the scrumhalf position, to a flying Etzebeth that led to the game's second try and ultimately finished off the match as a contest. They were on the same wavelength from the off. The potential of this pairing for Stormers and Springbok rugby is frighteningly good.

Du Toit, 23, has been plagued by injuries for much of his career while Etzebeth has also suffered his fair of injuries at only 24. If this duo can stay fit, behind a wonderful front row, the Stormers have the tight five needed, to become genuine title contenders.

Former Bok coach Heyneke Meyer believed Etzebeth and Du Toit had the potential to play 100 Tests together for the Springboks, and while that is unlikely to happen, they could still have a long and fruitful career together.

Equally pleasing for the Stormers was the arrival of 20-year-old lock JD Schickerling to this level. The youngster, playing his first Super Rugby match after suffering a broken neck vertebra in an under-21 match in 2014, impressed with his eight minutes on the field.

In his first contact, he copped a neck-high tackle that led to a penalty for the Stormers.

Flyhalf Rob du Preez kicked to touch and Schickerling called the lineout move that led to the Stormers' third try from a rolling maul. Coach Robbie Fleck was impressed with all the locks.

"Eben and Pieter-Steph are good kids who work hard," Fleck said. "They are nice and physical with lots of aggression. They performed really well but credit must also go to JD Schickerling.

"He made an exceptional call to win that lineout and set up the maul, which led to our third (and bonus-point) try."


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