BJ Botha would provide the Stormers’ scrum with a destructive edge if he was brought to the Cape franchise.
Injuries to looseheads Wicus Blaauw and JC Kritzinger mean the Stormers are one blow away from crisis at a critical stage of the competition. JD Moller will start at No 1 against the Crusaders this Friday, but coach Allister Coetzee will be praying there are no injuries to either of his props.
Coetzee told keo.co.za on Monday they are considering a number of options after it was confirmed Kritzinger could be out for as many as three weeks. Local men like Janro van Niekerk have been talked up, and there’s been speculation that Botha, a Bok tighthead playing for Irish club Ulster, could be called on to help the team.
While the move may seem necessary with injuries to Blaauw and Kritzinger, who are both looseheads, it’s at tighthead where the Stormers are most vulnerable. Brok Harris has done a formidable job at No 3 this season and has played for the majority of the campaign. If Harris goes down, they’ll have to rely on the inexperienced Argentinean Eusebio Guinazu to slot in at tighthead. Guinazu hasn’t had many opportunities to date and while he is listed as a versatile prop, he has played more at loosehead than tighthead for the Cape team.
The Stormers’ scrum has been solid this season and have in some instances dominated the opposition. Harris has been the standout No 3 across the South African franchises, although it’s premature to be talking about him as a Bok contender. He’s also benefited from the scrumming power of Tiaan Liebenberg and the afore-mentioned looseheads beside him, not to mention the underrated back five of the Stormers.
The signing of a high-profile prop to the Cape franchise is long overdue. Botha’s experience would be a boost to youngsters like Harris, Blaauw and Kritzinger, while his own performances would help the Stormers to destroy opposition scrums on a more regular basis.
Botha was recalled to the Bok side last November and had an immediate impact. He impressed against Italy and then produced a dominant showing against Ireland. The Boks’ effort at scrum time was undoubtedly the highlight of the visitors’ performance.
Botha told this site last November that he wants to return to South Africa and push for a place in the World Cup squad. To become eligible, he’ll need to sign with a South African team and play in the 2011 Super 15.
While Harris has done well, the Stormers will strengthen their chances of success in next year’s competition by bringing Botha to Cape Town. At the moment, there has been no official word on Botha joining the Stormers for the back end of this campaign, but surely there should be a move to acquire his services for 2011.
The Stormers have been lucky that Harris has avoided injury in 2010 and will be hoping their luck holds out for the rest of the campaign. But they can’t bank on luck forever. In reference to the old adage, top teams need two quality tightheads, not one.
By Jon Cardinelli