Gavin Rich – SuperSport.com
Cape Town – There was good news for the Stormers on their first day in New Zealand as Eben Etzebeth passed the first stage of his concussion test ahead of Saturday’s opening tour match against the Hurricanes.
According to SuperSport.com, the Stormers arrived in Wellington after their long flight from Cape Town in the early hours of Monday morning and according to defence coach Norman Laker the first day of the training week on Tuesday went off very well considering the natural fatigue after the many hours in the air.
“It was a long travel but the guys are okay considering. We had lots of stuff to do today (Tuesday) as obviously we missed the usual Monday session because we were in the air. I thought the guys did well considering the three days of travel,” said Laker.
The big news from Laker’s side though was that Etzebeth, one of the most influential Stormers players, could well be fit to face the Hurricanes. After the win over the Jaguares at the weekend head coach Robbie Fleck was less than confident and appeared to be resigned to the probability of Etzebeth missing this game, but according to Laker that outlook has changed.
“Everybody so far is fit to play. Eben passed his first test, so everyone is looking ready and confident,” said Laker.
“Obviously Eben has other protocols that he needs to pass, but we have an extra day this week because our game against the Jaguares was played on a Friday, so that gives Eben extra time to be ready. We are confident he will be fit to play on Saturday.”
Although there is still a chance he will be left out of the team because the Stormers are obligated to omit him from one tour game as per the Springbok resting protocols, it would appear likely that Fleck would want his influence in this tough opening fixture of what is a four-match tour.
Although Laker is preparing the players for their toughest defensive test so far due to the probable presence in the opposition line-up of the rugby magician known as Beauden Barrett, Fleck will feel that his forwards, if they play to their potential, could make that task a whole lot easier.
The Stormers pack dominated the second half of their clash with the Hurricanes in 2017, with the Hurricanes in the end only just holding out after leading well at half-time. That would not have been forgotten by the Stormers management, although in terms of survivors from then it numbers only Fleck.
While Cobus Wiese is a capable lock replacement for Etzebeth should he not play, the coach will surely want the Bok’s influential presence on the field should he be ready to play.
Saturday’s clash is scheduled for 08:35 (SA time).