But coach Robbie Fleck will think that the sun (excuse the pun) did come up in Singapore on Sunday, as he stated that Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth will be back from a lengthy time out with a calf injury for next Saturday’s massive north-south showdown against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld (7.20pm).
Etzebeth has sat out of the last five Stormers games, and it has seen the Cape side emerge with a record of two wins, two defeats and a draw in his absence.
While Pieter-Steph du Toit was once again a colossus for the Stormers in Singapore, he cannot continue to carry the pack on his own – whether it’s in the lineouts, through ball-carrying or making vital tackles.
That’s where Etzebeth could make the difference to a Stormers unit that lacked bite in terms of their physicality on attack and defence against the Sunwolves.
However, the Bok duo may not be in tandem against the Bulls at Loftus, as Fleck stated before the Sunwolves game that Du Toit would’ve missed the Singapore trip if Etzebeth had been declared fit.
Du Toit has shouldered an enormous workload in his first year at Newlands, and has taken a breather for just one game, against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires. He is likely to be a key figure in Allister Coetzee’s Springbok team against Ireland next month, and the Bok coach wouldn’t want Du Toit to be overplayed.
But Fleck and the Stormers are under pressure despite still topping Africa Conference 1 following their worst display of the season against the Sunwolves. They lead the Bulls by three points, so the Loftus face-off is likely to decide who tops the group ahead of the quarter-finals.
So it will be interesting to see if Fleck deploys both his big guns Etzebeth and Du Toit against what will be a monster Bulls pack that includes imposing young locks RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins and the more athletic Marvin Orie.
The Cape side have to rediscover their fire if they hope to win next weekend, but they will have to do it without JC Janse van Rensburg after the loosehead prop sustained a knee injury in the early stages of the Sunwolves match.
Fleck feared for the worse. “It’s not looking good for JC. He is going for some scans and he may have an MCL (medial collateral ligament tear) – that will be confirmed back in Cape Town,” the coach said on Sunday.
“But the initial view on it is that it is not good news. Juan de Jongh had a very tight hamstring going into the game, but he came through. Louis Schreuder had a stiff back, but he came through.
“Eben has been training back at home and he will be joining us at training on Tuesday. We are playing against guys who are competing for our conference, so it is a massive game for us. Eben is coming back, so we should be a bit more comfortable.”
An MCL tear would rule out Janse van Rensburg for up to six weeks. He was eventually replaced by Oli Kebble, who will probably start in Pretoria, with Alistair Vermaak set to come on to the bench.
Original source: Etzebeth to cook up a Storm